Beth Mead scored a scintillating hat-trick inside 14 minutes to help England move top of Women’s World Cup Qualifying Group D with a 4-0 win against Northern Ireland on a historic night at Wembley.
England hit the woodwork twice in the first half, with Lauren Hemp close to scoring her first England goal with a shot after a driving run, and Alex Greenwood also rattling the crossbar with a stunning long-range effort as Kenny Shiels’ obstinate visitors somehow kept it to 0-0 at the break.
Sarina Wiegman named the same side that beat Luxembourg 10-0 and North Macedonia 8-0 in their last two matches.
Leah Williamson, normally a defender, captained the side again from an unfamiliar midfield position.
Beth Mead and Beth England came on just after the hour in an inspired double switch from England manager Sarina Wiegman, and less than a minute later Mead finally broke the deadlock and sparked a flurry of goals.
Wiegman’s side move to top of Group D, overtaking previous leaders Austria, to mark a near-perfect night on the Lionesses’ first competitive match at Wembley.
How England went top of Group D
England started a little nervously but quickly settled into holding a very high line, with 80 per cent possession in the first half, and created a succession of clear-cut opportunities but did not show the same cutting edge demonstrated in their previous two games.
Inside 15 minutes, Hemp was inches away from scoring her first England goal, driving infield, bursting into the box and rifling a left-footed shot towards goal, but saw her arrowed effort strike the bar and deflect away.
Greenwood was the next to strike the woodwork, slamming a wonderful 25-yard thunderbolt off the crossbar, before White nodded over from a great position four yards out as England racked up 17 shots and eight corners to Northern Ireland’s zero and zero respectively before half-time but somehow did not score.
Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman took off defender Demi Stokes for Keira Walsh at half-time, going to a three-at-the-back system, and it nearly backfired as Lauren Wade powered down the left-hand side and put in a measured ball towards Caragh Hamilton, but Greenwood poked it away from her brilliantly.
After goalkeeper Jacqui Burns flapped at a corner, Northern Ireland couldn’t clear and Mead took one touch to control the ball, and with only her second touch of the game pivoted acrobatically to flick an effort into the corner, before England then tapped in on the line from Hemp’s chipped cross.
The electric Hemp created another, gliding past several would-be tacklers and providing a centre for Mead to volley into the bottom corner. Burns then smothered a through ball to deny Beth England, but Mead slid home the loose ball to leave the 23,000 fans at Wembley delighted.
Opta post-match statistics
- England have won every game they have played against Northern Ireland (10/10) by an aggregate scoreline of 54-3; it’s the Lionesses’ best 100 per cent-win ratio against an opposing nation.
- England have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five games against Northern Ireland in a run stretching back to March 1986, netting 26 goals themselves.
- England have lost just one of their last 30 matches against fellow home nations (W27 D2, including Republic of Ireland), losing 2-0 to Scotland in the Cyprus Cup back in March 2011 (unbeaten in nine such games since then).
Women’s World Cup 2023 – who qualifies?
Women’s World Cup 2023 – who qualifies?
A record 51 European contenders have been split into six groups of six teams, and three of five, for qualifiers to be played between September 2021 and September 2022.
The winners of the nine qualifying groups will progress directly to the finals in Australia and New Zealand, which run from July 20 to August 20, 2023.
The group runners-up take part in the UEFA play-offs in October 2022.
Two play-off winners with the highest ranking will qualify for the finals, with the third competing in an inter-confederation play-off in February 2023 to determine the final line-up.
What the manager said…
Sarina Wiegman on ITV:
“I’m very happy, of course, with this score and how we were on the pitch. These are hard games, because they were defending hard the whole game and it was very tight.
“You have to just stay patient and all the players that came on made a difference, so that’s very nice.
“The substitutes brought us more energy and pushed us higher on the pitch. I think it was [Mead’s] first touch, and it wasn’t even an easy one from the corner! It was so nice to score the goal and I’m impressed by this team, our team.”
‘The manager told me to make a difference’
Hat-trick hero Beth Mead on ITV:
“I can’t put [my emotions] into words – to score a goal at Wembley is genuinely an amazing feeling, to put the shirt on and score for this country.
“To come away with a hat-trick is a special feeling and I’m glad to help the girls get the three points today. The manager just told me to go out there and make a difference, so hopefully I did that today.
“We came on this pitch to do a job today and that’s what we did. It’s got to be up there [in my playing career], it’s one of the proudest moments for me and my family.”
England Women travel to Latvia for their next World Cup Qualifier in Riga on Tuesday October 26, with the game kicking off at 6.30pm.
October 26: Latvia vs England (kick-off 6.30pm)
November 27: England vs Austria (kick-off 11.45am)
November 30: England vs Latvia (kick-off 7pm)
April 8, 2022: North Macedonia vs England (kick-off TBC)
April 12, 2022: Northern Ireland vs England (kick-off TBC)
September 3, 2022: Austria vs England (kick-off TBC)
September 6: England vs Luxembourg (kick-off TBC)