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England were in blistering form on matchday two and they are capable of blowing Northern Ireland as well.
Back over 2.5 goals in the first half (+240)
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On matchday one, England got the victory they wanted but they did not exactly put on a show. A 1-0 win against Austria was a case of Sarina Wiegman’s women getting the job done with a minimum of fuss, but Germany, Spain and France went on to deliver more impressive performances over the next few days. By the time the second round of fixtures came around, many wondered whether England would be able to match their rivals for the Women’s Euro 2022 trophy by producing something special.
They did more than just match them. An 8-0 victory over Norway was the most stunning result of the tournament up to that point. With Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen up top, Norway were tipped to cause problems for England. The host nation actually got off to a shaky start and could have fallen behind, but once the first goal went in at the Falmer Stadium there was only ever going to be one winner.
Thrashings like that one are still more common in the women’s game than the men’s, but Norway are no minnows – even if England made them look that way last time out. Beth Mead was the star of the show with a hat-trick, but Wiegman will be pleased with the way her team shared the goals around, with Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp, Ellen White and Alessia Russo also getting on the scoresheet.
It was a dazzling display from England and one which means they are already through to the quarter-finals with a game to spare. That will take the pressure off on Friday and allow Wiegman to rest some key players if she feels that way inclined. It looks like pre-tournament favorites Spain will be England’s opponents in the last eight, so it would not be a surprise if some of the regular starters were given Friday evening off.
Northern Ireland may have zero points to their name after two games, but they have certainly not disgraced themselves so far. They are the only debutants in this edition of the European Women’s Championship, having qualified for the competition first by edging out Wales in the race for second in qualifying Group C, then overcoming Ukraine in the play-offs. This month was always going to be a learning experience for Northern Ireland, and they will be stronger in the long-term for having participated.
Their journey will come to an end after Friday’s match on the south coast of England. Having lost 4-1 to Norway and 2-0 to Austria – both respectable results given this is their first ever major tournament – Northern Ireland will be keen to avoid an embarrassing reverse against England. The fact that their opponents are already through could help them in that regard, but the gulf in class between the two teams is likely to be apparent once the 90 minutes are up.
Kenny Shiels in effect admitted as much after the loss to Austria, insisting his side are not yet ready to compete with the continent’s best sides.
If you look at where we were when we came in, we reached this level too soon, he said. There’s no way we can transform a team in two years how we have done and take it to that level immediately.
Shiels is a manager who is not afraid to switch formations between matches, and we could see him revert to the 3-5-1-1 that was commonplace before the tournament got under way. That would give Northern Ireland an extra degree of security at the back, although it is doubtful that their defense would be able to resist if England were able to replicate their performance against Norway in this encounter.
Even if Wiegman does shuffle her pack, the Lionesses will have too much quality for their opponents. Any players that are handed their first start of the tournament will be determined to make an impression ahead of the knockout phase, so we are unlikely to see England take their foot off the gas.
Alternatively, Wiegman may opt for her strongest possible XI with a view to making changes in the second half once the win is secure. In either scenario it is likely that England will make a fast start and Northern Ireland’s backline could be breached early on.
With that in mind, over 2.5 goals in the first half looks like terrific value at +240. England scored six before the break against Norway, who are a stronger side than their upcoming opponents.
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|Northern Ireland vs England Information|
|Teams||Northern Ireland vs England|
|Location||St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, England|
|Time||Friday, 15 July 2022, 3.00PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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