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Sloppy England undone by France leaving Sarina Wiegman plenty to ponder

Lucy Bronze during England's home defeat against France in Euro 2025 qualification

Sarina Wiegman insisted that her England side are showing improvements, despite their hopes of qualifying for Women’s Euro 2025 automatically suffering a big blow with Friday night’s home loss to a strong France side.

The defending European champions were beaten by two high-class finishes from the visitors and slipped down to third in the group at the halfway stage. It was the first time the Lionesses lost a qualifying fixture in 22 long years since defeat against Germany way back in May 2002.

Asked if she was concerned, the England manager said: “No, I think the opponents are really good too. France is a very good opponent. I think if you see our performance today and you compare that to what we showed in Ireland and against Sweden, I think we played better today, we played better as a team in-possession and out-of-possession, so I see things developing in the team.”

Wiegman, who felt her team were the stronger but was exasperated that they had conceded from set-pieces, added: “I think it was a very unnecessary loss so that makes it even more disappointing.”

For 11 first-half minutes it had all been looking so good – England were ahead thanks to Beth Mead’s 33rd goal in 56 senior international appearances. But Paris St-Germain duo Elisa De Almeida and Marie-Antoinette Katoto both scored from tight angles to turn the game on its head.

England applied late pressure and sent centre-back Millie Bright into attack in the closing stages. But they could not find a late leveller and were beaten for the first time since October.

The importance of the game was not lost on anybody. Only the top two sides in the unusually difficult qualifying group can earn an automatic spot at next summer’s major tournament finals in Switzerland, with the sides in third and fourth forced to settle for a relatively lengthy play-off process this autumn, which England will be desperate to avoid. Sweden’s 3-0 away victory in the Republic of Ireland in Friday’s earlier kick-off only served to tighten things between first and third, as England dropped below the Swedes. As if to illustrate the high calibre of teams in this group, England, France and Sweden all reached the semi-finals of the 2022 Euros.

The Lionesses had been dealt a very early blow when their No.1 goalkeeper Mary Earps limped off with a hip injury after just eight minutes to be replaced by Chelsea’s Hannah Hampton. The Manchester United shot-stopper went down in the second minute and initially carried on, but after appearing to be in significant pain when taking a goal kick, she was withdrawn. It was a sad end to fans favourite Earps’ 50th cap.

Mary Earps on crutches after England's defeat to France
England goalkeeper Mary Earps left St James' Park on crutches - Getty Images/eorge Wood

It was also Wiegman’s 50th match in charge of England, and only very few of the previous 49 had looked so difficult on paper. It was England’s first meeting with France since the Dutchwoman took charge, with Wiegman having faced every other nation inside the top 10 except for the French, and with both teams ranked inside the world’s top three, France’s threats were widespread.

Wiegman made a difficult call in her selection, somewhat surprisingly dropping Manchester City’s left-sided centre-back Alex Greenwood – who can also play at left-back – from the starting XI after Millie Bright and captain Leah Williamson’s long-awaited returns to fitness after injuries, with Jess Carter chosen at left-back. Wiegman defended that decision after the match, adding: “We know Alex is a very good player. Today, I chose the defence I thought we needed in the centre because of the qualities of France. They’re very pacy, very powerful. I think that was the right decision.”

England’s back four did look a little bit rusty in the first half at times but, to to Williamson’s credit, it was the Arsenal star’s excellent ball through the middle of the pitch that broke through France’s lines superbly and led to England’s opening goal, which was eventually clinically struck home, low, by childhood Sunderland fan Beth Mead in front of the Gallowgate End. France levelled with De Almeida’s superb strike on the volley from a corner looped perfectly beyond Hampton’s flailing arm.

This was England’s 26th official meeting with France in all and they had only won four of the previous 25, against a nation who have frequently proven to be their nemesis. The visitors played high-energy, physical football, which disrupted England’s rhythm significantly, pressing with great intensity at times. And after England failed to clear a free-kick, Katoto struck the ball mid-swivel and found the bottom corner, past a helpless Hampton.

England must go to Saint-Etienne on Tuesday and try to do something they have not managed to do in more than half a century since a victory in these two nations’ first official meeting 1973: win away in France. A home fixture against the Republic of Ireland and then a tricky trip to Sweden will follow in July.


England 1 France 2: As it happened


10:27 PM BST

Thanks and goodnight

ITV’s live coverage has now ended so that’s all from us tonight. Thanks for joining - come back and do it all again with us on Tuesday.


10:25 PM BST

Leah Williamson: set pieces killed us

We played well, not good enough but two set pieces killed us.

Obviously there’s an element of those lucks to those thing but first contact, second contact, we just needed to be better. 


10:23 PM BST

Wiegman reacts

On her side’s defeat:

Absolutely frustrating. I thought we played pretty well, we conceded two goals from set plays  which we have to do really better [at].

On Earps’ early injury:

It was a strange start. Mary got injured and that took about five minutes and then she went down again and had to be subbed. It wasn’t the way we were expecting and we had to get organised again.


10:12 PM BST

Earps on crutches

It’s hopefully more precautionary, but Mary Earps was on crutches as she joined the on-pitch post-match huddle with her England team mates. The Lionesses have now dropped five points in just two home Euro 2025 qualifying matches.

earps
Earps was on crutches after the full time whistle - Ian Hodgson/PA

10:07 PM BST

Mead: I thought we were the better team

Disappointed, frustrated. I actually thought we were the better team, created more chances. Ultimately we got beat on two set pieces and that’s something we need to look at and rectify.

On Mary Earps’ early injury:

You don’t want to lose your number-one like that but Hannah came on and made an amazing save and was great with her feet. We need to get our rhythm early and set ourselves to play better across the 90 mins.

On what England need to rectify for Tuesday’s reverse fixture:

We’ve got to get straight into recovery, watch and analyse the game. Not give away set pieces, not concede from set pieces. We’ve got to rectify that.


10:02 PM BST

St James’ Park falls flat

It’s all very flat amongst the crowd. That’s a very damaging result when it comes to England’s chances of qualifying for the Euros automatically.

england
England have now dropped five points in just two home Euro 2025 qualifying matches - Stu Forster/Getty Images Europe

10:02 PM BST

Full time England 1 - 2 France

England with a rare defeat at home. France get the job done and probably deserved it after capitalising on two moments of sloppy defending from England and extend their lead at the top of the group by five points after just three games. These two nations will do it all again on Tuesday. 


09:56 PM BST

94 mins England 1 - 2 France

Kelly has injected some fresh pace into England’s attack since she’s come on. She comes surging with the ball down the right - Peyraud-Magnin momentarily finds herself out of position - but Kelly’s finishing isn’t on the money. She skies it high. France are nearly there.


09:55 PM BST

92 mins England 1 - 2 France

Frantic play from the Lionesses now, who are searching for an equaliser but it’s all a bit too hurried. Hampton just manages to scoop out a pass out wide but leaves the ball to trickle dangerously close to her own goal line.. before the hosts string a flurry of passes together up the pitch. Kirby inherits the ball on the penalty area but immediately runs into heavy traffic and another chance goes begging.


09:51 PM BST

90 mins England 1 - 2 France

We’ll have five minutes of injury time.


09:50 PM BST

88 mins England 1 - 2 France

Walsh picks up the ball in the middle of the park and arcs it out to Hemp who, in a sign of tiredness perhaps, can’t control it and the ball trickles out. She has been the Lionesses’ main source of attacking inspiration tonight.


09:48 PM BST

85 mins England 1 - 2 France

Perisset, a WSL winner with Chelsea, is on for France. Kirby gets on the ball again and passes it out wide to Toone.. she threads it through to Bronze who nearly picks out Russo but France frantically snuff it out.

Kelly tries her luck from range but there isn’t enough dip on it and it narrowly flies over.


09:46 PM BST

83 mins England 1 - 2 France

Diani has been an omnipresent threat in this match, and she’s caught narrowly offside as France attempt to play over the top.

England regroup through Williamson, who finds Kirby bursting forward. She slides a pass towards Hemp, whose cross finds Kelly unmarked at the far post but she gets the timing on her volley all wrong.


09:39 PM BST

77 mins England 1 - 2 France

Stanway is on the ball again down the right, she looks up and sends in a promising cross towards Russo, but there’s too much on it. Double change coming for England.. Mead and Stanway are off and Kirby and Chloe Kelly enter the fray.


09:37 PM BST

73 mins England 1 - 2 France

Bronze picks the ball up in midfield and tries to thread a pass through to one of her personnel up front but there’s no one there. You feel England are starting to force it a bit... as Stanway tries her luck from distance. Fran Kirby is getting ready to come on. The Lionesses need a fresh inspiration from somewhere.


09:33 PM BST

70 mins England 1 - 2 France

England need to search for an equaliser and fast. They’ve twice fallen victim to France at set pieces tonight and will be kicking themselves for that soft Katoto goal, as epic as it was. Hemp again on her left digs out a cross towards Mead.. the ball is slightly behind her.. and her header drifts wide.


09:30 PM BST

FRANCE GOAL!

France go down the other end and win a corner which Bacha sends in.. there’s a sea of bodies in the box and nobody manages to get their head on it. England don’t clear their lines properly and Diani heads it back in towards Katoto, who tracks the ball perfectly and - very similiar to De Almeida earlier - arcs in a superb shot into the net.


09:27 PM BST

62 mins England 1 - 1 France

Georgia Stanway finds herself with ball to boot on the edge of the penalty area - she thinks about it - but back passes it to Bronze, who floats in a cross towards Russo but it’s too near Peyraud-Magnin, who safely gathers. Anyone’s game this at the moment.


09:23 PM BST

Walsh too conservative

We all know what a good player Keira Walsh is but I would like to see her being a bit more progressive when she gets the ball. She seems to spend a lot of time screaming for the ball from one of the defenders after darting into a pocket of space only to immediately pass it backwards again. The inability to play through the French lines in midfield is stifling England a little bit and she is supposed to be the player who can do that.


09:22 PM BST

Red-hot Russo

Russo’s been excellent tonight, up against two world-class centre-backs. She’s held them off so well, displaying a strength and agility you don’t often see, as well as some neat one-twos.


09:22 PM BST

60 mins England 1 - 1 France

More terrific link-up play from Russo, who really has been superb in those central areas tonight, finding the lively Hemp to her left. This time Hemp cuts back inside and threads a flat inviting pass towards Carter who bursts forward out of nowhere, but blue shirts immediately ambush her and the attack breaks down.


09:19 PM BST

57 mins England 1 - 1 France

England enjoy another attack and again Hemp is at the heart of it.. great vision from Russo to spot her. Hemp predictably sends in her cross towards the Arsenal striker but Peyraud-Magnin snatches it out of the air.


09:16 PM BST

54 mins England 1 - 1 France

Oof that was a chance for France! Williamson scuffs a clearance from a French throw-in and Cascarino, who has been very lively in this match, mops up the ball and dances into the penalty area before sending a shot towards goal. There isn’t a lot on it and her effort fizzes just wide.


09:13 PM BST

52 mins England 1 - 1 France

Willamson, who has had a great game so far, finds Hemp racing down her left with a cross-field pass. The Man City midfielder fires in a fierce shot towards Russo in the penalty area but there’s just a bit too much on it and it sails over the striker’s head. The hosts win a corner and Williamson finds herself in the thick of it.. there’s a bit of a scramble in the penalty area before France manage to clear their lines. You sense England are getting closer.


09:10 PM BST

48 mins England 1 - 1 France

Hampton finds Bronze on her right wing with a superb searching ball, and the right-back pings a pass through to Mead but the flag is up for offside. England have started this half much better than the first  and look in control, but France have a well-drilled backline and not a lot is getting past it at the minute.


09:07 PM BST

46 mins England 1 - 1 France

France immediately go on the attack and Bacha sends in a floating ball towards Katoto. Williamson just does enough to ensure the French striker overcooks her header.


09:06 PM BST

Second half underway

A big 45 minutes coming up for both sides.


09:02 PM BST

First half highs and lows

mead
Mead celebrates with her teammates after scoring England's opener - MI News & Sport/Trevor Wilkinson
earps
Mary Earps was forced to leave the action in the first minute - Harriet Lander - The FA/The FA
De Almeida
De Almeida celebrates after equalising for France - Owen Humphreys/PA

08:55 PM BST

Half-time verdict

England have shown flashes of real quality going forward but I’m not so sure they are looking very solid at the back. France are a dangerous counter attacking side and although their equaliser came from a set piece they have threatened in open play too. It’s very nicely poised going into the second half as you suspect both teams will get chances. England have got to be more clinical when they do. There was a bad miss Toone in the first half and Russo has also snatched at a couple of efforts when she might have looked for a pass back across goal instead.


08:51 PM BST

HT England 1 - 1 France

England go on the attack - Russo does well to hold the ball up and finds Bronze across the park who storms into acres of space. She finds Mead, who is bursting into the box, to her right and the striker opens up her body and curls an effort towards goal - it takes a tiny deflection but Peyraud-Magnin gets down superbly to her right and forces the save. From the ensuing corner, Bronze jumps but misses the ball and it falls to Russo, who smashes it into the side netting.

And that’s it for the first half.


08:47 PM BST

45 mins England 1 - 1 France

There’ll be five minutes of injury time.


08:46 PM BST

45 mins England 1 - 1 France

France’s equaliser has mustered a response from the Lionesses, as Beth Mead sends in a low cross and Peyraud-Magnin spills it but blue shirts clear. Down the other end, Carter picks up a yellow card for a blatant shirt tug on Cascarino.


08:43 PM BST

FRANCE GOAL!

And what a goal it was. The visitors win a corner after sloppy defending from England. The delivery is guided towards de Almeida, who is hanging by herself on the edge of the box. She watches the flight of the ball, sticks out a boot and volleys the ball brilliantly past Hampton into the back of the net with a rippling shot. That was a beauty. Game on.


08:40 PM BST

38 mins England 1 - 0 France

France are pressing for an equaliser. Cascarino sends in a looping cross towards Katoto, who sticks a foot on it but sends her effort well wide of the goal...


08:37 PM BST

35 mins England 1 - 0 France

That is a reminder of what England missed at last summer’s World Cup. From the moment that ball was played out to Lauren Hemp, Beth Mead was on the move, anticipating the danger. What was clever in her movement, though, was the way she held back a little at the end of the run into the box which meant she had not advanced beyond the ball when it was cutback rather than drilled across the face of goal. That gave her the separation from the full back and left her with an easy tap in after Stanway had made the initial attempt to get on the end of it. It’s a predator’s instinct and it’s why she won the Golden Boot at the Euros in 2022. It might look like she was just in the right place at the right time, but there is a lot more intelligence to her play than that.


08:34 PM BST

33 mins England 1 - 0 France

France win a corner and Bacha delivers an inviting ball towards Lakrar, who is unmarked and directs a thumping header towards goal.. but Hampton pulls off a superb save to her left. Big chance for France.


08:32 PM BST

GOAL ENGLAND!

It’s been a shaky start for the Lionesses.. but the hosts have the breakthrough through Beth Mead! Williamson picks out a inch perfect pass up the pitch to Toone, who turns and finds a racing Hemp on her wing. The Man City player directs in a low cross - it’s aimed towards Stanway but she misses it - and the ball falls to Russo who is strategically positioned behind. She takes her time and strokes the ball into the back of the net.


08:29 PM BST

Toone chance goes begging

I’m afraid those are the sort of chances you’ve got to take in high pressure games like this. Ella Toone, eight yards out, with most of the goal to aim at from a perfect cutback from Lauren Hemp and she scuffs her effort wide. That’s a bad miss at any level, let alone international.


08:28 PM BST

28 mins England 0 - 0 France

Hemp misplaces a pass, gifting France a throw-in. The visitors aren’t feeling any threats in behind at the moment, bar that earlier chance from Toone. On the touchline, Wiegman is in deep conversation with her assistant, Arjan Veurink. England go again and Carter and Hemp link up down their flank.. the ball is sent into Russo in the penalty area, she turns but there’s too much on her rising shot.


08:24 PM BST

22 mins England 0 - 0 France

TOONE chance! Russo angles a pass out wide to Lauren Hemp, who finds herself in loads of space, and sends in a low cross towards Toone, but it almost comes at her too quickly and the Manchester United midfielder arrows a low shot which drifts wide of the post.


08:22 PM BST

21 mins England 0 - 0 France

Leah Williamson starts a promising attacking move down the left which involves Toone and Russo, who feeds Bronze out wide and the defender runs onto it and nicks a cross into the penalty area but nobody’s there.


08:19 PM BST

19 mins England 0 - 0 France

France are drifting into promising positions and looking to take advantage of a rusty England back four, which hasn’t played together in some time, as Lucy Bronze deals with a searching pass up front for Cascarino. England look a bit flat at the moment.


08:17 PM BST

16 mins England 0 - 0 France

Hampton directs a low and rather flat pass up field to Toone, who is immediately ambushed by about three French players and the visitors go on the attack. It fizzles to nothing, but that should be a warning for the Lionesses. Probably not the best option by Hampton.


08:14 PM BST

14 mins England 0 - 0 France

England are beginning to move the ball about a bit more, as Beth Mead is hanging deep up front and is almost played in by an inviting cross field ball from Jess Carter, but cannot quite bring the ball under control and it trickles out for a goal kick.


08:12 PM BST

10 mins England 0 - 0 France

France looking a bit more energetic and free-flowing than the Lionesses at the moment, as Hannah Hampton gets her first touch of the ball at the back. Bronze tries to sweep a long ball in behind but it’s safely gathered by France keeper Peyraud-Magnin.

The crowd have just paid tribute to Leah Harrison, a 10-year-old schoolgirl who was tragically killed in a mudslide during a school trip to north Yorkshire last week.


08:08 PM BST

8 mins England 0 - 0 France

Earps is teary as she leaves the field. England wouldn’t have been expecting to make a change this early on..

Oh dear, Mary Earps’s 50th appearance for England has ended after less than 8 minutes after she twisted while attempting what should have been a routine clearance. She tried to play on and was cheered loudly by the England fans when she got back to her feet after treatment. However, she was clearly in a lot of pain still and went down again immediately after another kick. 
Hannah Hampton has come on. Earps looked very tearful as she was embraced on the touchline and headed straight down the tunnel. It looks like a problem with her hip or upper leg. She must be a huge doubt for the return fixture next week.


08:06 PM BST

4 mins England 0 - 0 France

Mary Earps won’t be able to continue. Bright passes it back to her goalkeeper - probably not the best decision given she’s clearly not 100% - and Earps winces in pain as she skies a clearance kick up the field. Hannah Hampton is getting ready on the sidelines to come on.


08:04 PM BST

2 mins England 0 - 0 France

Earps is up and trying to run whatever it is that she’s done off.. she stays in her goal as France line up for their corner. It’s sent in deep towards Renard but doesn’t cause any problems.


08:02 PM BST

1 min England 0 - 0 France

England get things underway and are immediately put under pressure by France in their own penalty area and Mary Earps, rather concerningly, has gone down injured. She winced slightly as she was passing the ball back out to her defence. It looks like it might be her hip flexor.

Millie Bright tries to play out from the back and is charged down by Delphine Cascarino. France win a corner.

Not the ideal start..


07:55 PM BST

The anthems are being sung

..we’re a couple of moments away from KO.


07:55 PM BST

Friday night lights

Ooooohhh there is going to be a light show. I must admit I’m not a fan of a pre match light show but especially when it’s not even dark yet. It’s May, in Newcastle. It’s a little bit chilly, but the sun won’t set for more than an hour. Someone hasn’t thought this through.


07:47 PM BST

Elsewhere in Euros qualifying..

Scotland’s match against Israel in group B2, which is being played behind closed doors at Hampden Park amid security concerns, has been delayed by 30 minutes after a protestor got past security and chained them self to a goalpost. There have also been reports of a small protest outside the stadium before the game over Israel’s military operation in Gaza.


07:39 PM BST

Key battle: Jess Carter v Kadidiatou Diani

Keep an eye on this one-on-one duel. Jess Carter has been given the nod at left-back ahead of Alex Greenwood. It’s a big call by Wiegman given Diani has just the 28 goals in 27 appearances for France. The Lyon striker is a tenacious forward and has become something of a figurehead for this attack-minded French team.


07:28 PM BST

Greenwood dropped to the bench

I wouldn’t describe it as a controversial decision, but it is one that will raise a few eyebrows. Alex Greenwood was arguably the best of all the English centre backs in the WSL last season but the Manchester City defender has been dropped to the bench for this one. I can see why. Leah Williamson is the captain and her partnership with Millie Bright in the centre of defence was the rock at the heart of England’s European Championship winning tournament. It is understandable Sarina Wiegman wants to put them back together for a game England really need to win if they are going to finish in the top two in their group. Greenwood may well see things differently of course and she could have played at left back of course, where Jess Carter is preferred.


07:23 PM BST

A ‘championship-winning’ centre-back pairing to face France

Eni Aluko, one of the pundits pitchside for ITV tonight alongside former England international Siobhan Chamberlain, gives the lowdown on Millie Bright’s return to the side:

Millie Bright is one of the stalwarts of this team. That is a championship-winning centre-back pairing alongside Leah Williamson. England are a better team for having Millie in it.


07:10 PM BST

Team news - Millie Bright starts

As expected, Wiegman has named Leah Williamson and Millie Bright together for the first time in an England side since February 2023 and makes four changes from the Republic of Ireland game. Ella Toone is picked over Fran Kirby, Grace Clinton has been given the number 10 role while Beth Mead gets the nod over Chloe Kelly. It’s a strong looking side on paper, but then again, France’s team isn’t too bad either.

England XI: Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Carter, Walsh, Stanway, Toone, Mead, Russo, Hemp.

Subs: Greenwood, Hampton, Kirby, Naz, Kelly, Beever-Jones, Clinton, Le Tissier, Park, Keating, Morgan, Turner.

France, meanwhile, make three changes from their last game out against Sweden. Les Bleues have opted for a three-pronged attack in the form of Paris St-Germain’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Lyon duo Kadidiatou Diani and Delphine Cascarino, which could cause England all sorts of issues. Wendie Renard, France’s towering centre-back, captains the side and is one of several Lyon players in the squad who will want to pick themselves up following their Champions League final defeat to Barcelona last weekend.

France XI: Peyraud-Magnin, De Almeida, Lakrar, Renard, Bacha, Toletti, Karchaoui, Dali, Diani, Katoto, D Cascarino.

Subs: Durand, Picaud, Perisset, E Cascarino, Samoura, Geyoro, Henry, Le Garrec, Baltimore, Benyahia, Dufour, Ribadeira.


07:05 PM BST

Williamson relishing facing France’s ‘amazing’ front three

Tonight the Lionesses are likely to face a dangerous French front three of Paris Saint-Germain striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto flanked by Lyon wingers Kadidiatou Diani and Delphine Cascarino.

Asked about that trio’s threats on Thursday, speaking at a press conference at England’s team hotel next to the banks of the Tyne, England captain Leah Williamson said: “They’re all amazing individual players. They’ve all achieved a lot, in their own right. Coming together they’re obviously very pacey with a strong number nine.

“So I relish the challenge, but they’re top players so we need to be at our best. But I think they’ve got a lot of quality and that’s what they’re sort of known for, I suppose, as a team, with those threats, so we need to be on it.”

diani
Kadidiatou Diani is one of a number of French players who could pose a real threat to England - Florencia Tan Jun/UEFA

06:56 PM BST

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06:52 PM BST

Lucy Bronze key to turning over Lionesses’ bogey team

England’s veteran defender starred in Barcelona’s 2-0 Champions League triumph over Lyon last weekend, as the right-back bagged her fifth European title.

She will be equally key tonight against a France side that is not shy in world class talent - keep an eye out for Lyon wingers Diani and Delphine Cascarino, who both possess skill and power.

It is Bronze’s strength as an attacking right-back that has often been valuable for England, yet her tendency to roam forwards has occasionally left large areas of space behind that opponents have exploited. Catch up on Tom’s analysis piece on where tonight’s key battles could be won and lost for the Lionesses.

bronze
Lucy Bronze became the first England player, male or female, to win a fifth Champions League trophy last weekend - UEFA/UEFA

06:37 PM BST

Wiegman impressed by players on standby

On standby for this camp, England had a quartet of players initially, and two of them - centre-back Maya Le Tissier and winger Jess Naz - have already been promoted to the full squad because of injuries. Birmingham City goalkeeper Lucy Thomas and Liverpool midfielder Missy Bo Kearns remain on standby, but have been training with the squad at St George’s Park this week. They can’t play tonight but have clearly been impressing the head coach.

Dutchwoman Wiegman said: “What I said to them at the beginning of the week was, ‘you’re here now, you probably look up to some players, but now it’s your job to challenge them and to try and get from a standby place into the squad, so just go out there, be equal and play’, and also just enjoy it, and that’s exactly what they did.

“They’re like a sponge, they really want to take everything in, and learn quickly. I’ve seen good things from all of them on the pitch and that’s just really nice to see. Of course it helps that there are very good players around them and things to grow, but it’s a very good start.”

sarina
Sarina Wiegman takes part in a pre-match press conference with Leah Williamson - Owen Humphreys/PA

06:30 PM BST

50-up for Wiegman

Tonight is Sarina Wiegman’s 50th game in charge, while it’s also likely to be Mary Earps’ 50th cap. More than 47,000 tickets have been issued for the match and the England shirts have been prominent around the city centre all afternoon, in the sunshine.

As with all the Women’s Euros qualifiers at this level, there will be goal-line technology in use but there will not be a VAR.

England will play in white shirts, blue shorts and white socks, while visitors France will be in blue shirts, blue shorts and red socks.


06:16 PM BST

England face tough examination against team ranked third in the world

Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of England v France.

The Lionesses continue their qualification bid for Euro 2025 tonight at St James Park, where they are likely to face one of their toughest tests yet under manager Sarina Wiegman.

The match in Newcastle is the first of back-to-back fixtures for the Lionesses against France, who sit top of qualifying group A3 and are ranked third in the world. The reverse fixture takes place in Saint-Étienne on Tuesday.

The Lionesses, who sit second behind Les Bleus, dropped points to Sweden last month before beating the Republic of Ireland, leaving them two points behind France, who kicked off their own campaign with consecutive 1-0 victories.

England will be without Lauren James for both fixtures after the Chelsea striker sustained a foot injury.

Niamh Charles and Lotte Wubben-Moy also miss out through injury but Wiegman could deploy the centre-back pairing of Leah Williamson and Millie Bright together for the first time in over a year.

Arsenal defender Williamson and Chelsea’s Bright, who have both returned after long-term knee injuries, have not started together for their country since a 6-1 demolition of Belgium at Ashton Gate in February 2023.

“It’s the first time that, obviously, me and Millie have been back in the squad together for a long time, so it’s been nice in that regard,” said Williamson.

“I think we’ve got a really strong unit - I mentioned coming back into the squad about how well they’ve performed and how they’ve raised the level, so it’s good to be back.

“It’s a competitive unit to try to get into. I’ll look forward to the challenge, I think, as everybody does.”

France’s manager, Hervé Renard, talked England up as favourites for the match, despite his team sitting top of the group. “No, we are not favourites,” he said.

“When you are playing against the World Cup runners-up and the European champions you cannot be the favourites, but this is not important. Just to be sure, we are not here just to visit Newcastle, we are here to play a competitive game.

“It will be a fantastic atmosphere and even when it’s against you it’s also pushing you. We know the atmosphere in the English stadiums are amazing so we’re looking forward to this very interesting game.”

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