5 things we learned from England's bleak defeat to France in Euro 2025 qualifier

  • England were beaten at home by France in a UEFA Euro 2025 qualifying match
  • Lionesses suffered a significant injury blow when Mary Earps was forced off
  • Sarina Wiegman’s side now sit third in their group, behind France and Sweden
Sarina Wiegman and Keira Walsh after England's defeat against France
Sarina Wiegman and Keira Walsh after England's defeat against France / DARREN STAPLES/GettyImages

England's hopes of qualifying for next summer's European Championship in Switzerland suffered a major blow as they were beaten 2-1 by France on a frustrating night at St James' Park.

A win would have seen the Lionesses leapfrog France in the standings, but instead they have dropped to third after Sweden comfortably beat the Republic of Ireland 3-0 elsewhere.

Beth Mead gave England the lead in the first-half, but two set-piece goals from Elisa De Almeida and Marie-Antoinette Katoto turned the game on its head and firmly in France's favour.

The Lionesses do have an opportunity to right the wrongs in a few days time when they face Herve Renard's side again in Saint-Etienne on Tuesday night. However, pressure is certainly mounting as the current European champions have it all to do in their three remaining qualifiers.

Here’s a look at five things we learned from Friday’s defeat against Les Bleues…

Sarina Wiegman opts for experience over form in defence

Sarina Wiegman, Leah Williamson
Leah Williamson after England's defeat to France / Stu Forster/GettyImages

For the first time in over a year, Leah Williamson and Millie Bright lined up as England's centre-back pairing, after injuries had resulted in both having extended spells on the sidelines. While their availability comes as a major boost for Wiegman, it was clear they weren't at their formidable best.

It can be argued they need to play themselves into form and injuries elsewhere, including to left-back Niamh Charles and centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy, limit the manager's options in that area of the pitch. However, Alex Greenwood is probably England's most in-form defender at present and for some reason the Manchester City star was confined to the bench.

Whether Wiegman switches things up next time against France remains to be seen, but the defensive vulnerabilities that have plagued England’s performances since the World Cup were laid bare.

Another significant injury blow

Mary Earps
Mary Earps was forced off with an injury just minutes into the game / Stu Forster/GettyImages

A lot has been made of the gruelling and intense schedule for quite some time. England technically have a summer off with no major tournament to contend, but with a spot at Euro 2025 in Switzerland at stake, it is still a hugely important period for Wiegman and her players.

However, they may have to finish their qualifying campaign without number one goalkeeper, Mary Earps. The Manchester United stopper was forced off with a painful looking hip injury inside just the opening ten minutes at St James’ Park.

Earps went down after appearing to pull something when she played a simple pass out from the back. After treatment, she attempted to carry on, with the Lionesses faithful chanting her name.

A few minutes later, Earps' 50th England cap ended in tears as she was ultimately forced off with the injury and was subsequently replaced by Chelsea's Hannah Hampton. The 23-year-old is by no means a bad option to have come on, but Wiegman will no doubt rue the absence of her first choice goalkeeper and they will be hoping the problem isn't as serious as it initially looked.

Set pieces prove to be England's downfall

Elisa De Almeida
Elisa De Almeida put France back on level terms in the first half / Stu Forster/GettyImages

England's defensive vulnerabilities were on display every time France had a set-piece. After Mead put the hosts ahead, the visitors very nearly levelled courtesy of a header from Maelle Lakrar.

Hampton was there to bail England out on that occasion with a solid stop. However, there was nothing the Chelsea goalkeeper could do the next time France had a corner. Kenza Dali'sdelivery was met by De Almeida, who side footed an incredible effort into the top corner to equalise.

France's winner in the second half was also from a corner. England didn't deal with the initial cross and, in the second phase of play, Katoto was able to slot an effort beyond Hampton. 

Williamson painted a frustrated figure post-match as she spoke to ITV, saying: "We played well, but not good enough as we didn't win the game. Two set pieces have killed us."

England must find answer to Walsh conundrum

Keira Walsh
Keira Walsh in action for England / Tim Clayton - Corbis/GettyImages

Ever since England's triumphant Euro 2022 campaign, opposition teams have done everything in their power to mark Keira Walsh out of games and keep her quiet. It's testament to her influence and ability of course - but it's becoming a problem that Wiegman is seemingly struggling to fix. 

Against France, Ella Toone and Georgia Stanway were nowhere near as prominent as they needed to be to make up the difference. Walsh's work rate is always there, but when she's marked so efficiently there is little she can do.

If Wiegman is to persist with playing the Barcelona midfieder as a single pivot, England need a solution further forward with someone far more dynamic and creative. Lauren James fills that role perfectly, as teams can't double up on both her and Walsh, but with the Chelsea forward out injured, an alternative solution will need to be found - and quickly.

England slip out of automatic qualification spots

Alessia Russo, Ella Toone
Alessia Russo and Ella Toone after England's defeat to France / George Wood/GettyImages

Arguably the greatest frustration for England after Friday night's result is the fact they have slipped to third in the standings in their qualifying group. The new format makes reaching the Euros significantly more difficult than in years gone by and there is a risk the Lionesses could miss out.

Should they finish third in their group, they will be required to contest two rounds of play-off games in order to book their spot at next summer's final tournament. France are comfortably top, so Wiegman's side will need to secure a win against them next time out, as well as triumphs against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland in July in order to regain a firm grip on second place.