Sarina Wiegman described an 8-0 win in her first game in charge of England as an “OK” performance – an indication of the high standards she is going to demand from her side going forward.
Earlier this week, she said she wanted “lots of goals” and even after a thrashing of North Macedonia, she stressed “we should have scored lots more”.
It is not overconfidence or arrogance. It is simply Wiegman honestly admitting that England – ranked 123 places above North Macedonia – were always expected to win this World Cup qualifier and it was the manner in which they did it that would be judged.
England had 48 shots on goal, with 18 of those on target. She smiled during her post-match interview with ITV when they revealed those stats, adding “was it that many? You managed to count more than us. We got about 20 100% chances”.
The Dutchwoman, embarking on a new four-year reign with England, could quite easily have piled on the plaudits but she was honest, direct and clear on what she wanted to improve on, after seeing her side win with two goals each from Ellen White and Beth England, strikes from Ella Toone and Beth Mead, as well as two own goals.
“We wanted to create a lot of chances and I think we have created lots of chances,” said Wiegman in her post-match news conference.
“We scored eight – well, actually we scored six and they scored two – but I think we should have scored lots more goals. We should have been better in the final third with the final decisions and the final touch to score the goals.
“But still we scored eight and I think it’s a very good start. I’m proud of the team.”
And throughout her news conference she made countless references to what needs to be done when playing “top-level opposition”.
Wiegman, who won the 2017 European Championship with the Netherlands and guided them to the 2019 World Cup final, knows what the expectations are as England manager – to win a major tournament.
She was asked in her first meeting with the media if she was aware of that and she simply replied: “Absolutely. I am aware.”
Her ambitions were made even more evident following the victory over North Macedonia – the “opposition were not that good” was her assessment – and called for more matches against top-tier nations.
“I hope we will improve and improve. We need some opponents that are from a higher standard than we had tonight,” she added.
“We only learn in an attacking way. We know when you play against an opponent that is in the top rankings that it is going to be different.”
But the first signs under Wiegman were good. She was fairly bold with her team selection – naming a young midfield trio of Leah Williamson, 24, Toone, 22 and Georgia Stanway, 22.
And she was not afraid to leave out some bigger names like Arsenal’s Nikita Parris, who came on as a second-half substitute, and Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, who she said was “managing her load”.
Wiegman also made it clear the door is open for anyone hoping to push their way into the starting XI against Luxembourg, adding the “energy in the team remained the same” when substitutions came on in the second half.
Williamson, who captained the side for the first time against North Macedonia, said the first week working with Wiegman has been “great”.
“The energy is through t