England 3-0 Norway

I don't know about everyone else, but watching one game a day now is almost disappointing and it's hard to believe that after this weekend we'll be down to just three games.

This one felt over with before it really even got started. England came out strong and scored in the third minute and really controlled the game from there. They scored again before half and that really seemed to deflate any counter Norway might have been mustering.

It was the Lionesses' best showing of the tournament, but we've seen them play better. Improving at they go on is certainly a good thing for England, but at some point they have to be able to put it all out there and leave it all on the field. They had such a heart-breaking end to the 2015 World Cup, but they're back in the semi-finals and have given themselves the opportunity for redemption.

What We Learned:

  • Right side, strong side: Pretty much every dangerous play from the Lionesses came up the right side. Nikita Parris was particularly strong with crosses and cutting in from the outside to create opportunities. They dominated that side of the pitch and were able to create so many chances as they went right at Norway over and over again.
  • Back Line Vulnerable: The scoreline says England dominated, but that was really only on offense. They were lucky the game wasn't much closer. Karen Bardsley played well in net for the Lionesses and she was called upon more than she should have been as the back line was sloppy throughout the game. There were a number of turnovers on ugly passes and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a change at center back for the semi-final. It was a bit jarring to watch the almost casual way some of the defense was played in contrast to how strong and on point the offense was.
  • Wide Open Spaces: Norway simply gave England too much room to make plays, from the opening goal just two minutes in to Lucy Bronze's strike from outside the box, there was just so much open space for the Lionesses to move. It was clear it was going to be a long day for Norway on the replay from that first goal when there were four England players unmarked and with multiple feet between them and the nearest defender at about the 10 yard line. If Jill Scott didn't score, one of her three teammates would have. Either France or the US will have to mark the Lionesses much closer in the semifinal if they want to shut them down.

Standout Performances:

  • Nikita Parris: The right wing seemed to be involved in every play for England, even when the game was well in hand.  She was chasing down balls and never giving the Norway defense a rest even late in the game. Early on, she was the impetus for much of England's offense. She was strong on the ball, crisp with her passes and just continually gave her teammates a chance to put the ball in the back of the net. You can't ask for much more. (The asterisk on this is that she had her second penalty-kick saved this tournament and I can't imagine that if any of England's remaining games go to penalty kicks, that she'll get the call. It's the one weak spot of her performance this tournament.)
  • Lucy Bronze: Her strike in the 57th minute might be the prettiest goal I've ever seen. It's definitely the best goal of this tournament. It's just a hell of a strike from distance – just this perfect abbreviated swing and a beauty of a goal. It doesn't happen if she isn't able to shorten up her strike. Once again, you'll notice she's got a lot of space and leaving someone of her talent wide open on a free kick seems like not the best idea, but what do I know? She played an overall great game and was probably England's best player of the match.

Stray Observations:

  • Norway looked like they just lost steam. They played a hell of a game against Australia in the Round of 16 and I think that might have just taken it all out of them.
  • All fan accounts are that Le Havre was not the best location for hosting games. The stadium itself is good, but the city and transportation situation was less than great, so I don't think anyone is sad to see the end of games there this tournament.
  • England coach Phil Neville continues to look like he got lost midway through a wedding reception and wandered onto the pitch to start coaching.
  • The quarterfinal match was streamed at the Glastonbury music festival and the crowd reaction shots were awesome. Nice to see the country getting behind the team again.
  • After Bronze's goal, there was a shot of David Beckham high-fiving folks near him – fine – but the best was daughter Harper standing there with her hand up waiting for her own high five.

What's Next?:

The winner of tomorrow's France/USA match will meet England in the first semi-final, which takes place Tuesday, July 2 at 3:00 PM Eastern in Lyon.

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOvIK1yFKr4

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