Northern Ireland are now preparing to enter the fray after Euro 2022 got off to an electrifying start with an opening night victory for hosts England.
Beth Mead scored the only goal as Sarina Wiegman’s side beat Austria 1-0 in their Group A opener in front of a raucous, record crowd at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The attendance of 68,871 set a new benchmark for a game at a women’s Euros and potentially lit the touchpaper for the tournament.
Attention will now switch to Southampton, where Northern Ireland take on Norway in the second Group A match on Thursday.
Mead’s nervy wait
Arsenal forward Mead had an anxious wait before her winning goal was confirmed.
Initially there was uncertainty over whether her lob over Gunners team-mate Manuela Zinsberger in the 16th minute had crossed the line as Carina Wenninger hooked an attempted clearance against the bar.
That was quickly cleared up by goalline technology but a further VAR review took place for a potential offside before the goal was finally given.
“I was pretty sure it went over but you always doubt yourself when there’s a little bit (of time) in between,” said Mead, who has now scored 15 goals in 15 international appearances since the start of 2021.
England, who are now unbeaten with 13 wins from 15 games under manager Sarina Wiegman, continue their campaign when they face Norway at the Amex Stadium next Monday.
Stat of the day
The crowd of 68,871 at Old Trafford set a new record for a crowd at a women’s Euros match. The previous highest was 41,301 for the 2013 final between Germany and Norway in Stockholm.
Shot of the day
Quote of the day
England coach Wiegman celebrates the win but hopes to see improvement.
Northern Ireland in dreamland
Captain Marissa Callaghan admits leading Northern Ireland into their first major tournament is a dream come true.
The veteran Cliftonville midfielder has made a rapid recovery from a broken foot to take her place in the squad.
The 36-year-old said: “I’m so proud, so honoured. It’s a dream come true for any little girl to lead their country and captain their country. I still have to pinch myself that it’s my title.
“We’ve been on this incredible journey and this is the pinnacle, this is what we’ve all worked hard for, this is something that was almost beyond our wildest dreams.”
Northern Ireland are the lowest-ranked team in the competition but insist they are no makeweights.
Callaghan said: “We’re here, we’re in the top 16 teams in Europe and we’re here to cause an upset and we’re not just here to make up numbers.”
Norway ready for action
Norway captain Maren Mjelde is also keen to get started go after battling back from injury herself.
The Chelsea defender, who has overcome a knee problem, said: “I feel very good. You haven’t seen me play a lot lately, but I have 15 months of hard work (behind me).
“Obviously it’s about playing games, now I’ve started two and I have a good feeling. Thursday is a new game.”
Harry Maguire, David De Gea and David James were among the famous faces spotted watching England’s opener.
Norway v Northern Ireland (Group A: 8pm, St Mary’s Stadium)
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