England boss Sarina Wiegman issues challenge to Lionesses after loss to France

Sarina Wiegman has challenged England to turn the tables on France to kick-start their Euro 2025 qualification campaign.

The defending champions went down 2-1 to the French at St James’ Park on Friday evening and realistically need to avenge that defeat in St-Etienne on Tuesday to rekindle their faltering bid to make it to the finals automatically.

Wiegman’s side have now taken just four points from their first three qualifiers and trail Group A3 leaders France by five points and Sweden on goal difference.

She said: “Of course, we first wanted to be first in the group, but that’s a little further away now. We’ll go through the game tomorrow and then we have the game on Tuesday.

“From what we showed today, I think we can win that game. If you see, we had more possession, more shots on goal – all we wanted more on target – so we go out there to win that game and from there, we will see.

“Yes, we know that we have to do well to go higher in the group, that’s a fact.”

England, who had lost keeper Mary Earps to injury just minutes after kick-off, looked to be in the driving seat when Beth Mead fired them into a 30th-minute lead.

However, France – ranked third in the world by FIFA to England’s second – levelled through Elisa De Almeida before the break and then won it with Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s second-half strike with both goals stemming from corners.

Wiegman said: “Of course, the result is really disappointing and I think unnecessary. I think our performance was good most parts of the game.

“The first part, of course, was very different than we were expecting. We really had to find our feet and get started. After that, we did well, scored a good goal and had chances to score more, and then they scored from a corner, which was disappointing.

“In the second half, I think we controlled the match more than we did the first half, but we created ‘almost’ chances.

England goalkeeper Mary Earp on crutches at St James' Park
England goalkeeper Mary Earp on crutches at St James’ Park (Ian Hodgson/PA)

“In many moments, we played pretty well and it’s very frustrating that we then concede a goal from a corner. We know they are very good at that, so we really wanted to do that very well.

“We want to win and we play to win, but we also played against a very good opponent. As I said, I think it is a very unnecessary loss and that makes it even more disappointing.”

Wiegman’s disappointment was compounded by Earps’ hip injury, the extent of which remains to be determined.

The Lionesses’ boss, who insisted she would have no qualms over starting Hannah Hampton in France should Earps not make it, said: “I don’t have an update because I haven’t spoken to either her or the doctor.

“Of course, I’m concerned because she doesn’t off the pitch very often, and now she did, and as we’ve all seen, she was on crutches, so I really don’t know, but yes, of course, there are some concerns.”