As Ellen White attempted to share her bench coat with Beth Mead, the Arsenal winger facing a long trip back to the dressing room in the lashing Norfolk rain in just her sports bra having given her shirt away to a supporter, the idea of a sunny summer Euros seemed considerably more than four-and-a-half months away.
But the European Championships are rapidly approaching, and although it will be little consolation to the sodden Carrow Road crowd – who witnessed more rain than goals – England’s 0-0 draw with Spain teased how tightly contested the upcoming major tournament will be.
Spain are heralded as dark horses for Euro 2022, but how much of a dark horse you can really claim to be when everyone is branding you a dark horse and your spine exclusively consists of members of Barcelona‘s illustrious Champions League-winning side is very much up for debate.
England have turned in two promising performances during their opening two matches of the Arnold Clark Cup, with the pieces of Sarina Wiegman’s side showing signs of coming together ahead of the summer’s festivities.
“We’re not going to win the Euros today, we’re not going to win the Euros on Wednesday,” Wiegman said at full time. “But it’s good that we play a team like this, like Spain because we need these games to develop at the highest level, and that’s what we did today. It’s very good to see how we were as a team and how we disturbed their style of play and exploited the spaces that they gave away in their game.”
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Wiegman made nine changes to her side, flexing England’s strength in depth, with Georgia Stanway impressing in an unorthodox deep lying midfield role.
The Lionesses enjoyed the better of the chances in a tightly contested encounter, Lauren Hemp striking the post 30 seconds after entering the fray in a fixture billed as her Norfolk homecoming. Jordan Nobbs fired wide from a tight angle after one of her countless bursting runs in behind was spotted superbly by Lucy Bronze.
“We created chances and now it would be nice if we scored,” Wiegman replied with a smile when asked where her team could improve.
Bronze had her defensive work cut out in the second half following the introduction of Athenea del Castillo from the bench, as Spain showed off the squad depth of their own.
Debutant Hannah Hampton pulled off a couple of routine saves when called into action, and looked comfortable and assured during her maiden senior appearance – another glimpse of the strength that England currently boast. It was a fitting team for Hampton to make her debut against, given the Aston Villa goalkeeper lived in Spain during her childhood and is fluent in Spanish.
“I was actually saying to a few people at the end of the game I was listening to everything the Spanish were saying and going ‘they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that’,” Hampton said. “So that definitely helped.”
Ultimately it was a win for the defensive coaches at Carrow Road, but the compelling contest between England and Spain – two of a number of sides expecting to go deep into the competition at Euro 2022 – provided a tantalising taste of just how close this summer’s tournament will be. Just fingers crossed for more goals and less rain.
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