England forward Beth Mead called for more consistency after the Lionesses required a dramatic comeback to beat the Netherlands 3-2 at Wembley and keep their hopes of qualifying for next summer’s Olympics alive.
The Nations League contest marked a first appearance for second-half substitute Mead in more than a year since she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament last November, just a few months after the Arsenal veteran had won the golden boot at Euro 2022 and also been named player of the tournament.
England will need to beat Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday night to have any chance of advancing in the inaugural tournament, with only the group leaders progressing.
Mead said: “The days when I’ve struggled in the gym, long, hard training days of not being able to play football and do the thing that I love, it makes it worthwhile to run out there in front of such big crowd getting a great reception and a ruthless second half of football.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) December 2, 2023
“We can [flick on at a moment’s notice], but we need to do that for 90 minutes. The first half let us down. We were chasing the game and you don’t want to be 2-0 down at half-time.
“But we had the belief in the team, we knew we could score goals and we came out in the second half and I thought the team was amazing. Every single person on the pitch and every player that came on is a game changer. And now we’ve got to do that for 90 minutes and be more consistent throughout the (next) game.”
England and the Netherlands have identical head-to-head records after Friday night’s meeting, which saw goals from Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp and Ella Toone follow Lineth Beerensteyn’s first-half brace, but the Oranje Leeuwinnen now boast a 4-1 advantage on goal difference.
Plenty to play for in League heading into the final matches #UWNL
— UEFA Women's Nations League (@WEURO) December 1, 2023
The Lionesses, therefore, will hope for both improvements to their defence, which spluttered in the build-up to the Dutch opener, and a bit of help from Belgium, who travel to the Netherlands for their own final group stage encounter on Tuesday night.
England could secure top spot with a victory should the Netherlands drop points, but if both they and the Dutch win the Lionesses will require a comprehensive win over Scotland to overcome the goal difference, a situation many have pointed out as unusual considering those same Scottish players would be eligible for Team GB.
Mead, who started every game of England’s Euro 2022 triumph, was actively engaged from the bench throughout the first period, and passed on her observations at half-time before coming on for Chloe Kelly to start the second half.
We couldn't have done that without you.
Thank you for joining us at Wembley! pic.twitter.com/WylhJsmzoc
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) December 1, 2023
She added: “Obviously I didn’t know I was coming on until quite late at half-time but everybody in this team can make an impact on the game, whether you’re playing or not playing.
“I think tactically, if you see something, give somebody that information to make the team better. And I think we did that really well at half-time. We give each other the belief and then the players that came on give the energy to the rest of the girls on the pitch. And ultimately that’s probably why we had such a good second half.
“[The win] gives us that little bit of energy again. We know we’re capable of that. We’ve just shown it in front of such a big crowd on such a big occasion and now we’ve got to do it consistently.”