Lionesses delt a blow by France

England Women v France Women – UEFA Women’s Championship Qualification – League A – Group 3 – St. James Park, Newcastle

UEFA Women’s Championship Qualification – League A – Group 3 – Report

England Women 1-2 France Women  

France dealt a major blow to England’s hopes of qualification for the 2025 Women’s Euro Finals in Switzerland after Marie Antoinette Katoto’s second-half strike saw Les Bleus’ through to a 2-1 victory at St. James Park, Newcastle.

The loss – in Sarina Wiegman’s fiftieth game in charge – leaves the Lionesses languishing in third place in Group A3 behind the French – with maximum points from their first three matches – and Sweden, who had defeated Ireland 3-0 in Dublin on the night.

The game got off to the worst possible start for the hosts when Mary Earps – winning her fiftieth cap for England – pulled up clutching her hip after playing a routine pass out to Millie Bright.  Despite receiving treatment and valiantly attempting to play on, the injury saw the Manchester United stopper forced from the field to be replaced by Chelsea’s Hannah Hampton after only eight minutes.

Despite having started slowly, the Lionesses went 1-0 up on the half-hour mark after Lauren Hemp’s cross in from the left found Georgia Stanway and despite the midfielder’s initial effort being blocked by the French defence, the ball was picked up by former Sunderland striker Beth Mead to cooly slot home the rebound at the Gallowgate End.  The goal – Mead’s thirty-third in international football – moved her up into joint sixth place (alongside Karen Carney and Eni Aluko) in the list of England Women’s top all-time goal scorers.

Four minutes before the break, full-back Elisa De Almeida’s magnificent looping volley beat Hampton all ends up to draw France level before in the sixty-eighth minute, Katoto swivelled inside the box to volley home via the far post for what, in the end, proved to be the winner.

Following England’s failure to qualify for this summer’s Olympic Games, the further prospect of elimination from Euro 2025 at the group stage would be a very bitter pill indeed to swallow.  Wiegman and her charges will therefore be hoping for an upturn in fortune when the teams meet again at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Ettienne on Tuesday (8pm).            

England coach Wiegman spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live following the match: “It is very disappointing. We should have won the game. No matter how good the goals were, you have a chance to stop it. The first one was fantastic and so was the second. It is disappointing and we need to tighten up on second balls.

“I thought we were energised. We are going to need to be more on Tuesday in France, so it doesn’t matter. It is the same for them. It’s been a long season for everyone that plays international football. That wasn’t a factor today. I felt good and I know the players around me did. We were pushing right until the end but we’re going to need more on Tuesday.

“Yeah, absolutely. Tonight was a must-win in our minds that is why we’re disappointed. Tuesday is a chance to go again.”

Captain Leah Williamson spoke to ITV Sport after the game: “We’re really disappointed because the game was there to be won. It was a fantastic occasion. Two set-pieces, second balls, not good enough. I think we played well but two set pieces have killed us.

“There’s an element of luck to these things but first and second contact we need to be better – and we will be better on Tuesday.

“We need to be ruthless and put the ball in the back of the net. That’s a must-win game now so we need to bring the energy, stay tight and put them under pressure.”

England: Earps (Hampton 8’) Bronze, Carter, Walsh, Bright, Williamson (Capt) Mead (Kelly 79’) Stanway (Kirby 79’) Russo, Toone, Hemp Subs not used: Greenwood, Naz, Beever-Jones, Clinton, Le Tissier, Park, Keating, Morgan, Turner

France: Peyraud-Magnin, De Almeida Perisset 86’) Lakrar, Renard, Selma, Bacha, Toletti, Karchaoui, Dali (Le Garrec 90+1’) Diani, Katoto (Ribadeira 90+1’) Cascarino (Henry 69’) Subs not used:Durand, Picaud, Cascarino, Samoura, Geyoro, Baltimore, Benyahia, Dufour

Referee: Martha Huerta De Aza

Assistants: Guadalupe Porras Ayuso and Eliana Fernandez Gonzalez

Fourth Official: Olatz Rivera Olmedo

Attendance: 42,561