It was inevitable but Ellen White couldn’t quite believe it: arms outstretched, fists pumping, face etched with joy. It had taken just three minutes for her to match then surpass the England goalscoring record of 46 set by Kelly Smith.
So overcome with the emotion of the occasion the Manchester City forward, making her 101st appearance, almost forgot her trademark goggle celebration, as she skidded on to her back to be engulfed by her teammates nine minutes into their record 20-0 victory, surpassing the previous best, the 13-0 defeat of Hungary in 2005, in this World Cup qualifier in Doncaster.
“We don’t need to talk about it any more,” said White modestly, quick to mention the role of her teammates in getting her to the top tally. “It’s been spoken about for a long time and yeah, I feel very proud.
“I’m not finished here. Kelly Smith is a legend and I was lucky to play with her … she’ll always be the best, for me.”
Four hat-tricks – from White, Lauren Hemp, who scored four, Alessia Russo, who scored England’s fastest ever hat-trick in the space of 11 minutes, and Beth Mead – were added to by Jordan Nobbs, Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, Jess Carter and two from Beth England as the Lionesses ensured White’s record-breaking match would be one to remember as more records tumbled, debuts were made and first senior goals were scored.
It also added fuel to the calls for pre-qualifiers. “I think we have to look at it,” said manager Sarina Wiegman. “Of course you want competitive games and these are not competitive games. In every country you want to develop the women’s game but I don’t think it’s good that the scores now are so high. I know that has the attention of the federations and Uefa and Fifa, and I think that’s good because I don’t think a 20-0 is good for the development of anyone.”
The 10-0 defeat of the part-time team in Latvia meant the goalscoring record, that White had moved one goal closer to in the 1-0 win over Austria on Saturday, was there for the taking. The only thing standing between her and history was perhaps the expectation that it was coming.
Just three minutes in and Mead would score to give them a lead that would remind them just how easily they could carve open the misshapen Latvian defence.
Three minutes later and White had matched Smith, with an uncharacteristic 20-yard strike that dropped down over goalkeeper Laura Sinutkina.
Good things clearly come in threes and, in the ninth minute, White’s City teammate Stanway whipped the ball around the defence for the record-breaker to tap in. With history made, the downside was perhaps how few were there to see it take place as standstill traffic around the ground meant many fans filed into Keepmoat Stadium well into the first half. They needn’t have worried though – England were here to put on a show for the eventually healthy-sized and heaving crowd.
Mead grabbed a second and then her third either side of Hemp’s first and second senior international goals – of four on the night. And Toone added England’s eighth before the break.
Shortly after the restart and White had a hat-trick of her own and was level with Gary Lineker and Harry Kane on 48 England goals and five shy of Wayne Rooney’s record tally of 53.
“Thanks for mentioning that, that’s great,” she laughed sarcastically. “To be honest I’m just focusing on what I can control, playing for England, loving what I’m doing, supporting the team wherever I can to help the team win really.”
There was no let-up from the rampant Lionesses as Wiegman handed caps to some of the fringe squad members. Stanway scored from the spot then substitute Carter, on for captain and Chelsea teammate Millie Bright, turned in from point-blank range.
England, who led the line with White from the off, finally got into the mix and substitutes Scott and Nobbs added one apiece in the second half, around Russo’s staggeringly quick hat-trick. Bruising scorelines can be painful. However, England can only play the team in front of them. We know they can score and, in February, against Canada, Spain and Germany, we’ll finally find out whether they can defend.