As England, after full-time at St Mary’s Stadium, walked calmly around the pitch and applauded the fans after beating Northern Ireland 5-0, the anticipation of what was to come next was palpable.
England had completed part one – qualify as group winners and progress to the quarter-finals without drama.
Their low-key celebrations were typical of a side looking to stay in the competition for another two weeks and their flawless record in the group stage was exactly as planned.
But it would be unfair to downplay the efficiency with which England reached the quarter-finals.
They scored 14 goals in their three games – the most by any team in the group stage of a European Women’s Championship and overtook Germany’s 11 in 2001.
England also became the first team to score five or more goals in consecutive games of the tournament without conceding.
Their final group stage win came four days after they broke their own tournament record beat Norway 8-0 in Brighton – a result that sent a strong message to their rivals.
That performance came against a Norwegian team featuring first-time Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, Champions League winner Caroline Graham Hansen and three-time Women’s Super League champion Guro Riding.
“It would be a massive failure if England didn’t win this tournament. Everyone else might as well go home,” said Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels on Friday.
England winger Lauren Hemp said BBC Sport It was “important to send a signal so teams fear us” after booking their place in the quarter-finals. Did you achieve that in the group stage?
“Yes, I hope so. It’s a one-off game in the quarter-finals, but regardless of the form that comes into play, it’s the one that shows up that day,” said England defender Lucy Bronze.
“We had some great games but we just got past Austria so we know we have to keep improving, showing up and doing our best no matter who we’re up against.
“The opponents can show up and they can show a great game too, so we have to show our form. We can celebrate, we’ve set some records, we’ve scored a lot of goals, but that’s about it. The quarter-finals are the quarter-finals. Finals. “
In the quarter-finals, it will be Denmark or Spain for England after bypassing Group C winners Germany, who also impressed in the tournament.
But despite their strong form, even Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg admitted she was happy to have set up an “easier” draw against Austria by avoiding England.
It’s no surprise then that defender Alex Greenwood said “confidence is high for England” who remain unbeaten under Wiegman, but she insisted they cannot afford to lower their level.
“Whoever we meet I have no doubt we will be prepared. If you look at our results, teams will probably be looking at us, but we’re not looking too far ahead,” she said.
When asked if the group stage could have been more perfect, she added: “I don’t think so. Three wins out of three and not conceding is pretty good, isn’t it?”
One of England’s greatest strengths ahead of the quarter-finals is the high quality of the squad.
Manchester United striker Alessia Russo came off the bench to score against Norway and went one step further by scoring two goals as a substitute against Northern Ireland.
Their form will give Wiegman a selection headache in the last eight, while fellow youngsters Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone continue to make their mark in cameo appearances.
“They were amazing. I’m so proud of them all,” said England striker Ellen White.
“It shows the depth we have in this squad. I definitely smiled when I scored those goals, those performances and this team. It’s really exciting.
“We have depth and this great togetherness. We are like family and everyone is proud of everyone on this team.”
England also have a manager in Wiegman who knows how to win the Euros, having done so with the Netherlands in 2017, and she has worked with similar efficiency.
When she managed the Netherlands in 2017, she opted to maintain ‘rhythm’ and momentum rather than rotate the starting XI in the final group game.
She was able to stave off any pressure of hosting and laughed at being marked ‘favourites’ ahead of England’s win over Norway.
Wiegman has also called on her side to “entertain” and use home support to their advantage and there is a growing sense of togetherness.
“We have to suck it up. That crowd again [at St Mary’s Stadium] Was incredible. The noise was brilliant and over 30,000 people came,” White said.
“It’s such a dream for us to play in front of this crowd. We want to make everyone proud and hopefully they are too. We can hardly wait for the quarter-finals now.”