England v Netherlands: Lionesses status grows as message sent to Euros rivals

By Emma SandersBBC Sport at Elland Road
England celebrate
England play their first match of the Euros on 6 July at Old Trafford against Austria

England have been tagged as one of the favourites to win the Euros and they sent a strong message to their rivals with an impressive victory over defending champions the Netherlands on Friday.

Four goals in a stunning second-half rout led England to a 5-1 win at Elland Road in front of 19,365 fans.

It was another huge tick in the box for this England side who continue to live up to expectations under manager Sarina Wiegman.

The Netherlands posed one of the toughest tests they have faced, but once again England were more than a match for a higher-ranked side - this was their fourth unbeaten game against such opposition under Wiegman, which has included both the reigning European and Olympic champions.

"I think England will be favourites in the Euros with where they are at, the quality of players, the home crowd and the resources the WSL has been putting in," the Netherlands boss Mark Parsons said after the match in Leeds.

"When you add that all up, it's very hard to see them not as favourites."

When Wiegman took over in September, the first questions she faced were "can this team win the Euros?"

She had just led her former country, the Netherlands, to the final of the 2019 World Cup, having guided them to European glory on home soil in 2017.

The Dutchwoman did not shy away from the task - she had come to England to deliver silverware on the biggest stage.

But she is not complacent. England face stiff competition from the likes of Spain, Germany, Sweden and France, as well as the Netherlands in the summer.

"I think there are many favourites for this tournament and we are one of them. We know where we want to go to and we will stick to our plans," said Wiegman on Friday.

"We won't sit and think on a pink cloud. We stay grounded. The expectation of course will go higher but we stay grounded. We are in a good place but we still need to improve a couple of things and we know that."

Manager Sarina Wiegman calls on England players to 'make everyone proud'

England's preparations could not have gone more smoothly.

They have scored 80 goals under Wiegman, sit top of their World Cup qualifying group, won the Arnold Clark Cup competition in February and remain unbeaten in 13 games.

Friday's victory over the Netherlands also showed England had the strength to come from behind - something they had not had to do previously under Wiegman.

"It was a good learning moment that we came from behind and conceded a goal," she said.

"It was good to see that reaction from the team and that we were able to bring it up to the level we did."

Parsons, an Englishman who left to manage abroad 11 years ago, described the Lionesses as "very, very good" and said opponents watching the last 30 minutes of Friday's game "will be very worried".

"This is a rout. This is a hammering. England are all over the Dutch," former Scotland international Pat Nevin said on BBC Radio 5 Live as Beth Mead scored the fifth goal at Elland Road.

"It isn't just scoring five goals. They've tortured the Dutch. The physicality, the strength and the willingness of the England team - they don't know how to deal with it."

It is worth pointing out that the Netherlands had players returning to full fitness who were managing minutes and they have had less time in camp to prepare.

However, the ruthlessness of England's second half performance was something that pleased Wiegman after she had demanded her players be more clinical in front of goal.

"I am very happy. We spoke about being more ruthless and we scored those goals. We were really on it. That is nice to see," she added.

England players and fans celebrate
Leeds fan Rachel Daly (left) was picked up by best friend Millie Bright at full-time during celebrations

There was also a sense of momentum created by England which was evident at full-time when fans rose to their feet to sing 'Sweet Caroline' while waving flags, as the players huddled in a circle on the pitch.

When Wiegman and the team had exchanged words, players broke off to celebrate with the crowd, jumping up and down, dancing to music and hugging one another.

It was a sign of scenes that may come this summer - a united home crowd, a packed stadium, a sense of excitement and a winning feeling.

"It was incredible. When people come to the stadium you want them to have a nice evening and to enjoy themselves. That's part of football at this level," said Wiegman.

"That happened and it was really nice. When people see us, hopefully they are so excited that they come and watch a game [at the Euros]."

England have one final game to play - against Switzerland on 30 June - before they open the Euros in front of a sold-out Old Trafford crowd against Austria on 6 July.