The look on David Beckham’s face, in the VIP seats, told you that he had just witnessed something you don’t see every day and most certainly not in a World Cup quarter-final.
Lucy Bronze’s first-time strike from a short corner – strong, true and the measure of world class as it crashed high into the net just before the hour mark – was certainly straight out of the Beckham play-book and bore an uncanny resemblance to the one she struck against Norway in the round of 16 of the last World Cup.
But this contribution went far beyond the capacity to deliver shots of divine class from distance. Bronze provided defensive resilience, impeccable tackles and more of the intuitive understanding with Nikita Parris which makes you wonder how on earth a club of Manchester City’s wealth has allowed them to leave for Lyon.
Lucy Bronze produced the moment of the match with a fierce right-footed strike from outside the area to make it 3-0
Bronze smashes the ball powerfully towards goal, leaving Norway goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth with no chance
The England defender’s brilliant effort rockets into the roof of the net after beating Hjelmseth with too much pace
The right back is mobbed by her team-mates after putting the result beyond doubt in Le Havre on Thursday evening
The Lyon defender high-fives her team-mates following her brilliant first-time strike during the second period
David Beckham, who was in attendance during the quarter-final, celebrates Bronze’s emphatic strike on Thursday
Norway (4-4-2): Hjelmseth 5.5; Wold 5 (S Hansen 85); Mjelde 5.5; Thorisdottir 5.5; Minde 5; Saevik 5 (Utland 64, 5); Risa 4.5; Engen 4.5; Reiten 5.5 (Eikeland 74, 5); C Hansen 5; Herlovsen 5.5
England (4-1-4-1): Bardsley 7; Bronze 9; Houghton 8.5; Bright 8; Stokes 7; Walsh 6; Parris 7.5 (Daly 88); Scott 7.5; Kirby 7 (Stanway 74, 6); Duggan 5.5 (Mead 54, 6.5); White 7.5
Manager: Phil Neville 8
Scorers: Scott 3, White 40, Bronze 57
It means Phil Neville’s England have achieved what they came here for and, if the United States beat France later on Friday, they will also have secured a place for Great Britain in the Tokyo Olympics, as one of Europe’s top three nations.
They were not impeccable. Their kamikaze passing is bewildering at times and could be punished by whichever of the titans they meet next. But Bronze, captain Steph Houghton and Jill Scott are operating on a level which give grounds for huge belief, while Nikita Parris’ destabilising presence give others grounds to fear.
It was immediately clear that the impediments to England’s progress were not as grave as the manager’s pre-match bulletin had implied. There was talk of the sickness bug, the illness of Millie Bright and Bronze, Houghton’s damaged ankle and a stifling heat on the Normandy coast. Bright and Houghton materialised and a mild wind whipped through the stadium, though it was Bronze who did most to dispense with the notion that she might be operating at something less than an optimum level.
She is the gold standard of this England team, a full-back operating on another level to anyone else in this tournament. The 30-yard run down England’s right which set them on their way after three minutes – steel and silk; power with elegance – reflected that. The young Norway holding midfielder Ingrid Engen has impressed at this tournament but Bronze took the ball along the dead-ball line and beyond her.
Ellen White’s uncharacteristic air shot from the ball Bronze cut back was the arriving Jill Scott’s opportunity to convert in the way she so often does. Within two minutes Bronze was making a tackle of impeccable timing on Isabell Herlovsen, on her own by-line.
Norway’s defence was exploitable by an England side who cut through it with an ease they had not encountered at any previous stage of this tournament and who should have been out of sight by half-time.
Ellen White doubled England’s advantage in the 40th minute following an impressive team move at Stade Oceane
The 30-year-old produces her trademark celebration after becoming the joint-top scorer at the 2019 Women’s World Cup
White taps home from a couple of yards out following fine play down the right from Nikita Parris near the end of the first half
The striker runs over to celebrate with England’s substitutes after putting them into a commanding position against Norway
Parris has still not delivered the rapier finish we have expected in this tournament. When she’d cut the ball back behind to create a shooting chance five yards out, after Houghton and Scott had carved a path through the central areas, she fired wide of the left post. She also missed a late penalty after Houghton was shoved in the back. It was her second missed spot-kick of the tournament, Neville insisted she would take the next.
White, carrying the Michael Owen tag Neville had bestowed on her into those match, was also less brutal. She found the ball sitting up for her in the penalty area of an opposition who were listing badly, stunned by England’s passing combinations, but struck the upright.
The profligacy made the significant second goal a source of unmitigated relief to White, who almost forgot her ‘goggles’ celebration. England’s devastating right flank operators were at the axis again – Parris dropping deep this time to collect a Houghton pass and locate Bronze, who crossed for White to tap home.
England’s capacity to surrender up position at the back of midfield which could cause them untold trouble against whichever of the titans they play next. That pattern is so frequent that you wonder whether Neville’s mantra about the passing being ‘non-negotiable’ is really so wise.
Jill Scott got England off to the perfect start, firing home the opener in just the third minute with a smart right-footed finish
After White failed to make connection with the ball, Scott was on hand to slot home into the bottom corner off the post
The goalscorer, England’s most ever capped player at a World Cup, is mobbed by her team-mates after breaking the deadlock
Scott has become only the second ever player to score in three separate Women’s World Cup tournaments for England
Pick any one of the half dozen times the Norwegians were gifted possession: they were all a source of angst. Keira Walsh was a serial offender in the first half, so too Millie Bright and even goalkeeper Karen Bardsley came close to gifting Herlovsen an opportunity. It took the presence of mind of Demi Stokes, back in the side at Alex Greenwood’s expense and impressive, to see off the worst of the dangers.
The very best of Houghton was needed to prevent Norway finally capitalising from more errors after the break. Maren Mjelde lifted a ball into the area and Caroline Graham Hansen got in between both centre backs but the captain read the ball impeccably and shepherded it out of play.
Bright played her second terrible back-pass of the night to Bardsley, who charged off her line and was beaten to the ball by substitute Lisa-Marie Utland. Again, Houghton needed an impeccable goal-line clearance. Houghton was then then caught out by a long ball and Bardsley made the save.
Neville winced, though he preferred to talk about his right back on Thursday night. Bronze has always claimed that that goal she scored in the last 2-1 win over Norway contributed to her being considered a world class player. This affirmed the fact.
Bronze did brilliantly down the right flank to beat her opposition before drilling in the ball for Scott to sweep ball home
Parris had the chance to make it 4-0 near the end of the match but she saw her penalty saved well by goalkeeper Hjelmseth
The 25-year-old reacts after missing her penalty in the 83rd minute in Le Havre against a tired Norwegian outfit
Earlier, White came so close to extending England’s lead to 2-0 after her first-time right-footed effort smashed the post
The England and Manchester City striker watches on as her fine effort agonisingly strikes the woodwork on Thursday
Parris argues with Norway’s Maria Maria Thorisdottir as both teams battled it out for the World Cup semi-final spot
Lionesses manager Phil Neville gives instructions to his players following their dream start in the last-eight encounter
The Lionesses huddle together as Steph Houghton gives some final inspiring words ahead of the quarter-final in France