‘So far ahead’: Shiels warns England falling short of Euros title will be failure

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The Guardian

Northern Ireland’s manager, Kenny Shiels, believes England should be deemed “failures” if they do not win Euro 2022. Shiels made the ­assessment after watching the hosts beat his side 5-0 to rubberstamp their place in the quarter-finals of the tournament.

Shiels was proud of his team’s first appearance in a major tournament. However, after goals from Fran Kirby, Beth Mead, two from Alessia Russo and an own goal by Kelsie Burrows took England’s tally to 14 goals for and none against in three Group A games, he said the pressure was piling up on Sarina Wiegman’s side.

“England is so far ahead of ­everybody at this time,” Shiels said. “I have to say if they don’t win the ­tournament, it would be a ­failure of the best players. If you have the best players you have to win, as simple as that.”

Russo responded by saying ­England are not the only top nation with ambitions of lifting the trophy at Wembley on 31 July. “There’s so many top, talented sides in this ­tournament and we’re excited to go now in the quarter-finals,” said the Manchester United striker. “I think we’ve got to be ready for what’s to come, because this is where we meet the big hitters. We’re excited but [there’s] lots of ­preparation still to be done.”

Wiegman missed the game in Southampton after testing positive for Covid so it was left to her ­assistant, Arjan Veurink, to lead England from the touchline and afterwards he ­confirmed the head coach had been helping him remotely. Wiegman hopes to be back for Wednesday’s quarter-final in Brighton with either Denmark or Spain, who face off tonight in Brentford.

England’s assistant coach Arjan Veurink confirmed he had been in touch remotely during the game with Sarina Wiegman, who missed the match after testing positive for Covid. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

In front of a sell-out 30,785 crowd at St Mary’s, England took their record to 98 goals scored in the 17 matches – 15 wins and two draws – since Wiegman took charge last September.

In contrast with Monday’s 8-0 victory over Norway, who were eliminated after losing 1-0 to Austria, England did not score for the opening 40 minutes.

“For the first 30 minutes, to be fair to Northern Ireland, they did well,” Veurink said. “We didn’t use the right spaces to play in and that’s one of the things we tried to put some attention on. We did really well in the first part of the second half. Sometimes, when opponents are defending in a low block, it is really difficult.”

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England’s attacking substitutes – Russo, Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone – helped England stretch the play more after the interval and Veurink praised the strength in depth.

“It’s brilliant,” he said. “It’s a great team to work with and we know we have a strong team. It’s really good to get different players on the pitch and we’re happy with them as well. It’s a good team performance tonight.”

July 16, 2022 at 01:08PM Peter Lansley at St Mary’s

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