Neville’s rotational tactics are paying off
After more first-team changes than any other nation during the group stage and a further three in the second round, Phil Neville finally settled for stability for the first time tonight – Demi Stokes replacing Alex Greenwood was the only difference from the side that faced Cameroon.
Not only did tonight's encounter suggest that Neville has finally realised his best XI (more or less), but it also validated Neville's earlier rotational tactics. Indeed, Norway – a side that's largely remained unchanged from their opener – looked fatigued throughout. In contrast, the Lionesses looked constantly fresh, with Nikita Parris and a much-improved Fran Kirby, in particular, running rings around a side who'd fought so tirelessly to thwart the higher-ranked Australia.
England will now certainly fancy their chances in their third consecutive major tournament semi-final.
England’s defence can be exploited
However, had the Lionesses been playing a side who hadn't just battled through 120 exhausting minutes and a penalty shoot-out four days previously, tonight's scoreline would surely have been less flattering.
Indeed, Norway were handed several chances on a plate by an England defence still very much prone to shocking lapses of concentration – the entire back four appeared to go AWOL during one particular Norwegian attack shortly after the restart, while Steph Houghton had to spare Millie Bright's blushes from the goal-line when a careless backpass was intercepted by Lisa-Marie Utland.
England may have gone more than six hours without conceding a goal, but such sloppiness will only go unpunished for so long.
Jill Scott can’t stop breaking records
OK, so it wasn't pretty. But as well as providing the perfect start, the Lionesses’ early goal also saw one of their mainstays break yet more England tournament records.
Having recently surpassed Peter Shilton as England's most-capped World Cup player, Jill Scott also now has the distinction of scoring England Women's fastest-ever World Cup goal. And having previously found the net in both 2007 and 2011, the Manchester City midfielder now joins Fara Williams on the exclusive list of Lionesses to have scored in three separate World Cups.
With 141 caps to her name, Scott may now be setting her sights on Williams' caps record of 170 too.
Ellen White has one toe on the Golden Boot
Of course, there was more than one England record-breaker tonight. Ellen White may have wildly miskicked to inadvertently set up Scott's early goal, but she soon made amends by slotting in from close range to both double the Lionesses' lead and score a record-breaking sixth World Cup goal for England's women.
Her fifth this tournament alone also means she's now tying with USA's Alex Morgan at the top of the Golden Boot leaderboard. All five of the American’s goals came during her side's opening annihilation of Thailand, which suggests she may well have peaked too soon.
If White can net a sixth against either USA or France on Tuesday, the Golden Boot may well be as good as hers.
England made need a new penalty taker
Nikita Parris could well have been challenging her teammate for the Golden Boot had she been more potent from the penalty spot. The Lyon forward initially suggested that England had at least one confident taker should they face a shoot-out in the knockout stages after scoring in the opener against Scotland. But with Parris now missing spot-kicks against both Argentina and Norway – the latter brilliantly saved by Ingrid Hjelmseth – that no longer appears to be the case. Parris would no doubt still step up to the plate for a fourth time should the opportunity arise. But maybe it's time for someone else to take on the responsibility – perhaps England’s third goalscorer, the outstanding Lucy Bronze, whose thunderous free-kick had a watching David Beckham applauding in admiration.
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