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England 1-2 France: Elisa De Almeida and Marie-Antoinette Katoto struck to damage the Lionesses’ hopes of qualifying for Euro 2025 after Beth Mead opened the scoring and Mary Earps went off injured inside eight minutes


England have previously enjoyed playing in front of their home crowd under Sarina Wiegman, but it is beginning to feel like the magic is wearing off.

Defeat to France, their first defeat in a qualifier for 22 years, will leave them with a lot of work to do if they are to retain their European crown in Switzerland next year.

Only the top two teams from the tough qualifying group will automatically advance to Euro 2025, with England now in third place.

They must now travel to France, who they play again on Tuesday, before facing Ireland at home and Sweden away in July.

Perhaps most concerning for Wiegman is that her team has only picked up one point from two home games.

Sarina Wiegman’s England struggled to make a mark during their home defeat to France

Marie-Antoinette Katoto scored the winner for France with just over 20 minutes remaining

Marie-Antoinette Katoto scored the winner for France with just over 20 minutes remaining

England goalkeeper Mary Earps forced off early in Newcastle with nasty-looking injury

England goalkeeper Mary Earps forced off early in Newcastle with nasty-looking injury

They had their moments against France but too many players were sloppy in possession and the two goals they conceded came from poorly defended set pieces.

The Lionesses lacked spark and, truth be told, many looked tired after a Test season. Elisa De Almeida’s superb volley to equalize for France after Beth Mead had opened the scoring was undoubtedly the best moment of a game lacking in quality.

«The result is really disappointing and I think unnecessary,» Wiegman said.

“I think our performance was good for most parts of the game. The first part was obviously completely different from (what) we expected, so we had to find our feet to get started. After that we were doing well, we scored a goal, I think we had more chances, and then they scored from a corner. That was disappointing.

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«In the second half I think we controlled the game more than in the first half. But we didn’t score, we almost created chances, so that pass will create the best chance, or a touch, or a cross, we played quite well in many moments, but it’s very frustrating that we get a goal from a corner (scene), we know that they’re very good at it, so we really wanted to do it very well (defend the play) and in some moments we did, but in too many moments we didn’t.»

For the first time since February 2023, Wiegman could select the center pairing of Leah Williamson and Millie Bright, both players having been injured in the last year.

But the decision not to select Alex Greenwood, who has enjoyed a superb season at Manchester City, either at centre-back or at left-back, was puzzling.

Greenwood was arguably England’s best player at the World Cup last summer and lacked composure on the ball and passing ability.

Beth Mead scored in England's opener with a side-footed finish into the bottom right corner

Beth Mead scored in England’s opener with a side-footed finish into the bottom right corner

Defender Elisa De Almeida scored a stunning side volley to equalize for France in the first half

Defender Elisa De Almeida scored a stunning side volley to equalize for France in the first half

Things got off to a bad start for England when Mary Earps was forced off after just five minutes.

The goalkeeper, making her 50th international appearance, twisted her hip after a routine pass and was replaced by Hannah Hampton despite trying to continue.

Ella Toone could have given England the lead midway through the half after an unexpected start when she met Lauren Hemp’s cross in the box, but her effort spun wide.

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Hemp continued to cause problems down the left flank and produced the opener after half an hour. The attacking center eluded Alessia Russo and Georgia Stanway, who may have been fouled by Selma Bacha as she tried to connect with the serve, but the ball fell to Mead and she sent a finish into the bottom right corner.

France almost immediately hit back but Hampton was on hand to push Maelle Lakrar’s header past the post. But Les Bleus found a way back before half-time, Elisa De Almeida sending a fantastic volley into the top left corner. There was a question mark over whether Wendie Renard had fouled Hemp in the build-up, but without the use of VAR the goal stood.

Chances were few and far between in the second half until Katoto put France ahead in the 68th minute. The goal came from another set piece when England failed to clear their lines, with Katoto sending a smart finish into the bottom right corner.



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