It was not Halloween, but the teams came dressed as each other.
England in orange, the Netherlands in white. This, plus the fact that the teams have done a nation swap for managers, already makes things rather unusual before the game has even started.
An important caveat is that the Netherlands came into this game at a very early stage of their camp and have two World Cup qualifiers to squeeze in between now and the start of the Euros. Not exactly ideal.
The Netherlands, essentially, completely dominated the first half.
They pressed England like they had not yet been pressed under Wiegman, and England couldn’t really handle it.
There was some very unconvincing defending from Bright who completely missed the ball as it came across the box but fortunately, Beerensteyn’s effort was basically right at Earps.
Less than five minutes later however, the Netherlands did take the lead. England were flapping under the press again, with Bright selling Greenwood short and Greenwood recovering, to concede a corner. From which, Martens scored.
To be fair to Martens it was a decent header, but Walsh could do better in the air against her and potentially Earps could’ve sorted her feet out, to shuffle across and make a save.
It could’ve been two about a minute later, if not for some heroic covering from Daly (earning her 50th cap) who sprinted about half the length of the pitch to divert the ball out for a corner.
England were looking rattled and didn’t really do much of note until 33 minutes in, when Lucy Bronze mishit a cross and it ended up floating into the top corner. Bronze did not hide the fact that she did not mean it, whatsoever.
With the way things were going it didn’t really matter, it was a lifeline in an underwhelming first half performance.
The turning point of the game came 3 minutes into the second half.
Greenwood absolutely wiped out Van de Donk in the box. Thankfully VAR was there to intervene and a penalty was given, because it would’ve been daylight robbery otherwise.
Spitse, making her 200th appearance for the Netherlands, puts it wide.
About a minute, if that, later Mead gives England the lead.
England’s best move of the game by about five country miles. Walsh plays Hemp in down the left-hand side who sends a great cross to Mead, who gets in front of Janssen and fires it in.
Where that was for the first 51 minutes, who knows.
Just to bring everyone back down to earth, the goal is followed by a rendition of Sweet Caroline.
It all hits the fan a bit from this point in. England really start to turn it on as the Netherlands simultaneously start to fall apart.
A combination of Van Veenendaal and Nouwen stop Mead and Russo from scoring, then the latter has a chance deflected wide after Walsh does an uncanny Messi impression.
It's 3-1 to England as Van Veenendaal has an absolute nightmare, as Toone’s shot quite literally bounces through her hands.
2 minutes later, Toone hits the post, the Netherlands don't clear properly and Hemp exceptionally volleys into the far corner.
The fifth comes from Mead again. Russo, who made more of an impact than Beth England in half the time, makes a mess of Hemp’s cross but does well to get it back to Mead who rather casually steps around Janssen and puts it in the corner.
It was nearly 6 as Russo hit the bar in the dying seconds.
It would’ve been ludicrous at before the game, and even more so at half time, to suggest that the game would finish 5-1 to England, but… it happened.
· There weren’t many massive chances squandered.
· The substitutes. All did themselves (and the team) a favour with how they helped change the game.
· Not completely falling apart after going behind.
· The attendance. 19,365. They very much fit the 12th player cliché.
· The first half. Cannot be playing like that on 6th July.
· Bright and Greenwood’s lack of pace. Is a bit worrying.
· Defending. Some of it was not good.
· Wearing the away kit when you’re playing in your home country. Yes they’ve got to promote it and everything, but still.
TO SUM UP
In the words of Sarina Wiegman, England can’t sit on a “pink cloud”. The Netherlands are in a very different stage of their preparations and had a bit of a collapse.
England’s defensive capabilities looked less than convincing at times, and if Spitse scored that penalty, who knows what could’ve happened.
However, England definitely deserve praise, they came from behind, dragging themselves through the first half, to win emphatically.
Make no mistake, 5-1 victory against the Netherlands, regardless of the caveats, will do wonders psychologically.
Onto Switzerland we go.