England Women vs North Macedonia Women. Women's World Cup Qualifying Group D.
St. Mary's StadiumAttendance8,214.
Lionesses start 2023 Women's World Cup qualifying campaign with rout; Ella Toone, Ellen White (2), Bethany England (2), Beth Mead strike; North Macedonia score two own goals; Wiegman appointed last summer but takes charge for first time at St Mary's
Saturday 18 September 2021 07:15, UK
England Women made an emphatic start to life under Sarina Wiegman with an 8-0 thrashing of North Macedonia in their opening World Cup qualifier at St Mary's.
Ella Toone (12), Ellen White (42) and a Julija Zivikj own goal (45) put the Lionesses in command at the break but the scoreline by then was only modest reward in their Group D mismatch.
A profligate first half was followed by a second but White's spot-kick (67) further extended the advantage and then England finally found their ruthless streak.
Bethany England came off the bench to score twice (77, 90) either side of Sara Kolarovska's hapless swipe into her own net and the substitute set up Beth Mead to fire an injury-time eighth as the Wiegman era started with a rout on the road to the 2023 finals.
Though this was the Lionesses' first competitive international for more than two years, the gulf between the eighth-ranked hosts and opposition 131st in the world rankings showed from kick-off.
Wiegman, in the England dugout a year after her initial appointment having stayed to lead the Netherlands at the Olympics, had called for goals and Toone should have headed the opener moments before she took a chance with her feet, collecting a fine pass from stand-in captain Leah Williamson before finding the bottom corner.
England were without Steph Houghton through injury, so Leah Williamson captained the side. Lucy Bronze was also missing, while Fran Kirby was rested. Mary Earps, Alex Greenwood, Ellen White, Ella Toone and Beth Mead were all handed starts.
Rachel Daly was a chief creator with diagonal switches of play but, while those chances came at thrilling frequency - 11 by the 20-minute mark - they continued to be spurned, Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway off target, before Toone and White tripped with the goal gaping.
Toone's evening looked to be over as she went down in tears following an innocuous-looking challenge but, in front of her new head coach, was swiftly back on the pitch to help England belatedly double their lead, scrapping to keep the ball alive, before a fortuitous bounce allowed White to stroke home.
Calamitous defending afforded England a third before the break as Zivikj turned into her own goal and while more opportunities were passed up from the restart, White - now just five goals off Kelly Smith's record - struck her second from the spot, even if Zivikj's trip on Williamson looked outside the box.
Coming off the bench, Jill Scott rattled the crossbar before fellow substitute England struck, heading home from point-blank range after a cross-shot from Nikita Parris could only be parried into the forward's path.
Two minutes later, Kolarovska was bamboozled by a Mead cross, scuffing over her own goalline and there was still time for further gloss.
England met a Mead cross with a firm header in the final minute and then repaid the favour with a neat give-and-go that allowed her team-mate to strike low into the corner and kickstart a new cause under a new coach in style.
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.
Wiegman was left asking for more from her England side - and more from the opposition.
"I think the performance was OK, good, we wanted to create a lot of chances, I think we have created lots of chances, we scored eight, well, six, they scored two," she told reporters.
"But I think we should have scored lots more goals (and) should have been a little better in the final third, (with) the final decision, (with) the final touch.
"You saw intentions (of what) we would like to do.
"It isn't totally new, we just add to it. The players have so much luggage already with their experience - I hope we will improve and and we need some opponents that are of a higher standard than tonight.
"Hopefully pretty soon we get some other opponents too and then we can continue building and adding things to our game."
Ellen White to ITV:
"We're delighted to get off the mark - eight goals, clean sheet, lots of different scorers, Sarina's first game.
"Could I have scored more? Of course. I'll definitely have a bit of a sleepless night tonight. We had a lot of chances, we definitely could have had more, but we'll build on it for Tuesday."
The Lionesses play Luxembourg in their next qualifier on Tuesday (7.15pm kick-off). Despite Wiegman's hope for sterner tests soon, Luxembourg are just nine places ahead of North Macedonia in the rankings and were beaten 4-0 by Northern Ireland on Friday.
September 21: Luxembourg vs England (kick-off 7.15pm)
October 23: England vs Northern Ireland (kick-off 5.15pm)
October 26: Latvia vs England (kick-off TBC)
November 27: England vs Austria (kick-off TBC)
November 30: England vs Latvia (kick-off TBC)
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)
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