Women's Euro 2017: 5 things we learned from England 6-0 Scotland
England opened their Euro 2017 campaign with a dominant 6-0 demolition of Scotland, sending out a small reminder to their fellow leading nations that they will be a force in this tournament.
Mark Sampson's side came flying out of the blocks and found themselves 3-0 up just after the half-hour mark thanks to a double from Jodie Taylor and solitary strike from Ellen White.
They added a further three in the second half, with Taylor getting her hat-trick before the brilliant Jordan Nobbs and sub Toni Duggan rounded off the scoring. The romp ensured England became the first team in the tournament to score more than twice in the opening round of fixtures.
Here are five things we learned about the fixture between the two rivals…
1. Taylor is England's big-game player
When Taylor is fit, she is Sampson's unquestionable first choice to play the No.9 role. She thrives on the big occasion and scores big goals – just ask Canadians, who had their hearts broken at the 2015 World Cup.
Taylor was unable to influence the qualifiers due to injury, but her return to fitness at the end of last year and playing in the recent FA Women's Super League Spring Series was well timed for the Lionesses.
Her hat-trick against Scotland made her the first England Women's player to score a treble in a major tournament, and reminded England fans of her all-round quality. The Scottish defence will have been glad to see the back of her when she was replaced on the hour mark, but bigger challenges will face the Arsenal Ladies striker - beginning on Sunday against dark horses Spain.
2. Sampson right to pick Fran Kirby
Chelsea Ladies striker Kirby was a much-discussed selection by Sampson when he named his squad three months before the start of the tournament.
Kirby had been out since the start of last summer due to injury, and only returned to action towards the end of the recent FA Women's Super League Spring Series. She went on to finish top scorer in the league, and carried that form into the game against Scotland.
She started behind centre-forward Taylor and her movement across the line was a constant distraction to the Scotland defence. It was her superb dummy that took two defenders out, setting Taylor free to score her first, before winning the free-kick wide on the left that led to England's second.
Sampson has always talked up his 'Mini Messi', and her performance against Scotland was the perfect statement to support his decision to include her in his 23-player squad.
3. Four at the back is better than three
During qualifying, Sampson experimented at length with a 3-5-2 formation, bringing Jo Potter in alongside Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze to build play from out of the back and make his side hard to score against.
But starting against Scotland with a back four suited the personnel at his disposal, especially with a player like Manchester City's Bronze, who has arguably developed into the best right-back in the world.
With Scotland unable to keep the ball when winning it off of England, and Nobbs and White sporadically drifting into more central areas, this left lots of space for Bronze and fellow full-back Demi Stokes to run into and give Scotland's defence even more problems.
England will need to be cautious committing so many bodies forward against stronger opposition, but Sampson got his formation spot on; Jill Scott and Jade Moore anchored the midfield when the attacking players were driving forward.
4. Scotland’s Jane Ross needs help
Ross was joint-top scorer in Euros qualifying, but the 4-1-4-1 formation that coach Anna Signeul deployed left her isolated up front and restricted her to efforts from distance. The Manchester City Women striker plays in a front three for her club, and while she has a keen eye for goal, has been well supported by players either side of her.
She didn’t receive that support against England, with Lisa Evans and Fiona Brown out wide and Caroline Weir and Leanne Crichton in the centre unable to fill the space between midfield and attack – an area that the injured Kim Little would have thrived in.
Signeul will need to figure out how to improve this when they face Portugal in Rotterdam on Sunday - because without helping Ross, Scotland will struggle to score.
5. England are the real deal
It has to be taken into consideration that Scotland were missing three starters in the mercurial Little, plus defenders Emma Mitchell and Jen Beattie - but England could only beat the opposition put in front of them.
The XI that Sampson selected was spot on, and he was able to to bring on Barcelona-bound Duggan and the experienced Karen Carney later. It’s a good indicator of the options available to the England coach.
The high tempo and pace of the game that England opened with was always going to cause the Scots problems, and it could see England go all the way.
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In past tournaments, question marks about whether England could match up physically with the best nations in the world always lingered.
But they have evaporated: England are now one of the fittest sides in the world and can match up against the very best. This was far too much for Scotland, and could be what sees the Lionesses overpower Spain on Sunday.