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Northern Ireland off to bright start in World Cup qualifiers, England win 8-0 but new boss expected more

Kenny Shiels side were 4-0 winners over Luxembourg.

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels.
Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels.
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

A STRONG FIRST-HALF display saw Northern Ireland women sweep aside Luxembourg in their opening World Cup qualifying match in Larne.

Goals from Marissa Callaghan, Rachel Furness and Emily Wilson effectively sealed victory before the break for Kenny Shiels’ side, before Lauren Wade wrapped up a 4-0 win after half-time.

It was Luxembourg’s first World Cup qualifier and their inexperience showed as Northern Ireland grasped control from the start.

Wilson and Julie Nelson missed good early chances before Callaghan delivered an inch-perfect lob to open the scoring in the 16th minute.

Despite coming under almost constant pressure, Luxembourg had their chances and host nerves were settled when Furness headed Northern Ireland’s second from a corner on 23.

Wilson tucked home the rebound from a Furness free-kick that hit the post to put her side in full command at the interval.

Furness went on to miss a penalty before Wade’s strike completed the scoring with 20 minutes remaining, although Kirsty McGuinness hit the bar late on.

Elsewhere, Sarina Wiegman was left asking for more from her England side despite seeing them thrash North Macedonia in her first game at the helm.

The Lionesses ran out 8-0 winners in an utterly one-sided World Cup qualifier at St Mary’s as Ellen White and Beth England helped themselves to braces with Ella Toone and Beth Mead also on target

Two own goals further widened the gap in England’s first competitive fixture in 804 days – but this was one by name only as they breezed to victory.

Despite the dominance, Wiegman – who led Holland to glory at Euro 2017 – wants to see more clinical finishing going forward.

“I’m very pleased,” she said. “It was a very nice atmosphere, great stadium here, nice atmosphere fans around, very energetic team on the pitch, a win of 8-0.

“I think the performance was OK, good, we wanted to create a lot of chances, I think we have created lots of chances, we scored eight, well, six, they scored two.

“But I think we should have scored lots more goals (and) should have been a little better in the final third, (with) the final decision, (with) the final touch.”

england-v-north-macedonia-fifa-womens-world-cup-2023-uefa-qualifier-group-d-st-marys-stadium The Lionesses celebrate after their win. Source: PA

With North Macedonia sitting some 123 places below England in the Fifa rankings, this was never likely to be a close contest.

Toone opened the scoring with a strike which should have been saved before White doubled the lead and a Julija Zivikj own goal had the hosts three ahead at the break.

White then converted a controversial penalty, captain for the night Leah Williamson seemingly fouled outside the box only for referee Maria Madrona to point to the spot.

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Substitute England struck, heading home from point-blank range after Nikita Parris’a cross-cum-shot from Parris fell into the forward’s path.

Moments later and Sara Kolarovska was next to turn the ball into her own net, getting tied up by a Mead cross and converting past goalkeeper Suarta Dervishi.

Parris missed a couple of chances to extend the lead before England headed home in the last minute and Mead got in on the act to complete the rout.

“You saw intentions (of what) we would like to do,” Wiegman added.

“It isn’t totally new, we just add to it. The players have so much luggage already with their experience – I hope we will improve and and we need some opponents that are of a higher standard than tonight.

“Hopefully pretty soon we get some other opponents too and then we can continue building and adding things to our game.”

That much-improved opposition will not come in the next game, with England facing a trip to Luxembourg – who are just nine places ahead of North Macedonia in the rankings.

The Republic of Ireland kickstart their campaign next month after their opener against Georgia was postponed. Sweden, Finland and Slovakia are their other opponents in Group A.

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