England slip out of Euro 2025 qualification spots as France win

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England slip out of Euro 2025 qualification spots as France win

England have dropped out of the automatic qualification spots in their Euro 2025 group after France came from behind to beat the Lionesses 2-1 at St James’ Park.

Sarina Wiegman’s side thought they were heading top of Group A3 when Beth Mead put the hosts ahead on 30 minutes, as England recovered well from losing goalkeeper Mary Earps due to an injury picked up in the first minute.

But France used their corner expertise to turn the game on its head as Elisa De Almeida scored a stunning volley just before half-time, before Marie-Antoinette Katoto swept home as the Lionesses failed to clear another set piece.

The result means England are now five points behind first-placed France, ahead of another game with the group leaders in Saint-Etienne on Tuesday, while the Lionesses sit third behind Sweden on goal difference, after they beat the Republic of Ireland 3-0.

If England do not finish in the top two in their group, then they do have the opportunity to qualify via the play-offs, which take place later this year in October and November.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto celebrates scoring her winner for France

Image: Marie-Antoinette Katoto celebrates scoring her winner for France

How France turned the tables

England got off to a difficult start as goalkeeper Earps’ one and only touch of the game inside the first 30 seconds saw her pass out the back then go down holding her hip, before eventually being forced off on seven minutes, with Hannah Hampton coming on.

That put a dampener on the raucous St James’ Park atmosphere and while France held the ball well, England grew into the game just before their opener.

Ella Toone missed a good chance to open the scoring when she scuffed Lauren Hemp’s cross wide of goal, before Alessia Russo smashed over the near post when played in down the left.

Eventually, England’s pressure told as Toone fed Hemp down the left and the England winger’s cross fell kindly for Georgia Stanway. The midfielder was denied by a France block but Mead was on hand to find the net from the rebound.

Beth Mead celebrates with Lauren Hemp after her opener

Image: Beth Mead celebrates with Lauren Hemp after her opener

Instead of pushing for a second, England got sloppy in possession. France gave them a couple of warnings when Maelle Lakrar was found unmarked in the box from a corner, only for Hampton to acrobatically keep her out. Then Katoto fired over from inside the box after being found all alone in the England penalty area from a dangerous cross.

And moments later, France got their equaliser as a corner found De Almeida on the edge of the box and her stunning, instinctive volley flew over Hampton into the goal.

Élisa De Almeida celebrates her equaliser

Image: Elisa De Almeida celebrates her equaliser for France

That left England kicking themselves at half-time, even though Mead and Russo both went close in the final minutes of the half.

There was more sloppiness from the Lionesses as Delphine Cascarino and Sandie Toletti were allowed clear sights of goal from the edge of the box, but both efforts were off target.

And there was similar clumsiness in France’s winner as Russo failed to clear from a corner and France took advantage. Katoto latched onto a flick-on and swept home into the far corner, to leave the 42,000 fans at St James’ Park silenced.

Wiegman tried to respond by bringing Fran Kirby and Chloe Kelly on, the latter blasting over almost instantly in England’s best chance to find an equaliser. But England had no more responses.

Wiegman ‘absolutely frustrated’ by defeat

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England boss Sarina Wiegman says her side’s defeat to France was ‘unnecessary’ as they threw away a lead to slip out of the automatic qualification spots for Euro 2025.

England manager Sarina Wiegman to ITV Sport:

“Absolutely frustrating. I think we played pretty well and I think we conceded two goals out of set plays which we have to do really better at. In these matches you don’t get that many chances. In the first half we created multiple chances and scored one.

“Then they scored a goal and in the second half we were more on the ball. We didn’t create that many chances, the final pass needed to be better. We got to a chance then didn’t get to the end. That execution didn’t go very well.

“We know France are good at set pieces. We were prepared and they still got their time. The first-half goal, it was unlucky. Lauren Hemp was bombarded.

“It was a strange start to the game. Mary got injured and it took about five minutes to get started. That was not the way we were expecting it and we had to get organised again. I can’t say anything about her injury, I haven’t spoken to anyone yet.

“Of course we are going to recover, review the game and get ready for Tuesday. There’s still lots to win, this is disappointing. Tomorrow we will see it as done and then it’s a good chance to play again and win again.”

Williamson: Return game with France is must-win next week

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England’s Ella Toone says the players are disappointed after their defeat to France but will learn lessons from the performance and mistakes that were made.

England captain Leah Williamson to ITV Sport:

“Really disappointed, the game was there to be won. It was a fantastic occasion, the fans have never let us down so it’s a shame not to give them a win as well.

“Two set pieces and second balls. We played well, not good enough to win the game, but the chances were there to win it. Two set pieces have killed us. There’s an element of luck to those things, but first contact and second contact we just need to be better. We will be better on Tuesday.

“We need to be ruthless and put the ball in the back of the net, it goes without saying. That’s a must-win game now and we need to bring the energy, stay tight and put them under pressure.”

What’s next?

England Women travel to face France Women in the return Euro 2025 Qualifier in League A, Group 3 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Tuesday June 4; kick-off 8pm.

What are the other Euro 2025 qualifying dates?

June 4: France vs England, Saint-Etienne, kick-off 8pm

July 12: England vs Republic of Ireland, Norwich, kick-off 8pm

July 16: Sweden vs England, location TBC, kick-off 6pm

Play-off draw: July 19

Play-off round one (two legs): October 23-29

Play-off round two (two legs): November 27-December 3

Euro 2025 finals draw: December 16

Euro 2025 finals: July 2-27 2025 – Switzerland

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