Simply days after beating Belgium in considered one of England’s higher current performances, how did the Lionesses lose 3-2 in Leuven – and is it indicative of wider points?
In a topsy-turvy sport in Belgium, Laura De Neve’s free-kick noticed the Crimson Flames forward. However two fast targets from Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby – scoring on her first worldwide begin in over a yr – noticed England in entrance.
Tessa Wullaert then scored twice – as soon as on the finish of the primary half and once more from the penalty spot after Georgia Stanway’s handball – to see Belgium to a well-known victory.
It has made England’s hopes of reaching the Nations League finals – and the 2024 Olympics – that a lot tougher, with the Lionesses now third in Group A1.
However simply how did Sarina Wiegman’s facet go from successful 1-0 in Leicester on Friday, to a dismal 3-2 defeat 4 days later towards the identical opposition.
What has occurred to England’s defence?
England goalkeeper Mary Earps says the squad are ‘bitterly disenchanted’ with their efficiency within the 3-2 loss to Belgium within the Girls’s Nations League.
For almost all of Wiegman’s tenure, England’s defences may barely be breached. On their strategy to the Euro 2022 title, they solely conceded twice towards Spain and Germany.
Actually, it has solely been because the World Cup quarter-finals that the Lionesses have struggled with retaining the targets out – all whereas having one of many world’s finest goalkeepers in between the sticks.
Because the sport towards Colombia, England have saved only one clear sheet in seven video games. In Belgium on Tuesday, they conceded three targets in a sport underneath Wiegman for the primary time.
Some could level to current defensive modifications – the Lionesses switched to a again three halfway by means of the World Cup which aided their attacking play, however didn’t at all times present the solidity wanted on the different finish. It has been a change between a 3 and 4 since.
Niamh Charles has additionally not too long ago are available at left-back after her nice begin to the season with Chelsea, though the full-back place is arguably the place England wrestle at instances.
Whereas often seeing loads of the ball, the full-backs push larger up, leaving England uncovered in defence. That was clear for Wullaert’s first purpose, with Charles and Bronze unable to get again to supply a lot assist.
It then doesn’t assist the 2 centre backs, particularly when going through a crew who proved to be lightening fast on the counter-attack as Belgium are. “They don’t seem to be enjoying a possession sport, as quickly as they win it they’re gone,” Wiegman instructed ITV Sport.
After all, poor passes in midfield doesn’t assist this example both, however England didn’t appear ready for the Crimson Flames’ assault, regardless of having confronted the identical crew simply days earlier than.
There continues to be questions requested in regards to the Lionesses defence, and haven’t appeared convincing in a while. Maybe after considered one of their heaviest defeats underneath Wiegman, it could drive change or on the very least, gamers the possibility to replicate and enhance on their very own performances.
No downside creating possibilities in Leuven – now ending them is the difficulty
Sky Sports activities’ Anton Toloui analyses the Lionesses’ 3-2 loss to Belgium within the Girls’s Nations League.
It was clear from the response of gamers and administration they knew what was lacking from England’s attacking efficiency in Leuven.
“We had a couple of possibilities to place the sport to mattress, if we might been just a little bit extra medical,” Lucy Bronze instructed ITV4. “We would have liked to do higher within the closing third,” Wiegman added.
Alessia Russo, Kirby and Rachel Daly will all look again on missed alternatives which may have painted a really completely different image for the Lionesses’ Nations League hopes.
Extra extensively, even when England weren’t testing Nicky Evrard, that they had a lot of the ball in attacking areas at different instances however had been let down by an overhit closing cross or poor supply into the field.
England should be higher – and Russo will shoulder plenty of the accountability. She has began three of the Lionesses’ 4 Nations League video games however scored solely as soon as and she or he missed a sitter earlier than half-time in Belgium.
Is it time to have a look at a substitute for lead the road? Daly was the WSL’s prime scorer final season and has netted twice for Villa this time period regardless of their powerful begin.
She should really feel she’s value a beginning berth by means of the center, a possibility she hasn’t been afforded since July.
The one optimistic for England and Wiegman is that England are again to creating possibilities. However till they begin placing them away, that’s little comfort.
Did Greenwood’s harm have a detrimental impact?
Alex Greenwood was handled on the pitch for 13 minutes following a conflict of heads
In some ways, sure. Not due to the incident itself, though it can certainly have affected the gamers to see their team-mate and buddy stretchered off, however her defensive qualities had been sorely missed.
Greenwood was considered one of England’s finest gamers at a generally underwhelming World Cup for different members of the squad. Though England’s defence has struggled in current video games, there’s a consolation realizing Greenwood is there to have a significant influence.
Maybe this was finest demonstrated with two first half possibilities for Wullaert. The primary inside six minutes noticed the Belgium captain drive by means of after a sloppy midfield cross. Nevertheless, Greenwood simply dropped again to play Wullaert offside and the flag finally went up.
Later, as Wullaert raced by means of to equalise for Belgium, neither Millie Brilliant or Jess Carter may get near the striker. Whereas positioning would even have been completely different, Greenwood’s tactical pondering and defensive skills had been definitely missed in that second.
Her means on the ball and the next errors made in her absence had been an enormous a part of the Lionesses downfall too, with Lucy Bronze telling ITV Sport: “Alex having to return off when she’s considered one of our key ball gamers did not assist, however an analogous factor occurred towards Holland once we gave the ball away too simply.”
Hopefully, Greenwood will recuperate effectively from her concussion and be accessible for England’s important closing Nations League video games in December. It is clear she will likely be sorely missed in any other case.
Stanway struggles hamper England
Georgia Stanway had a tricky night time in Leuven and gave away the penalty which earned Belgium their late win over the Lionesses
It was an evening to overlook for Georgia Stanway. Her poor midfield passes allowed Wullaert by means of twice – the second time leading to Belgium’s equaliser – and her handball gifted the Crimson Flames a late penalty for his or her winner.
There was little protest from Stanway too – she knew that she had not moved her arm out of the way in which quickly sufficient.
Whereas many people struggled towards Belgium, Stanway’s errors arguably led to essentially the most essential moments. There is no such thing as a doubting her means and she or he has stepped up for England in key video games, however the Bayern Munich midfield will need to have felt like all the pieces went towards her on Tuesday – and it usually did.
Talking in regards to the crew total after the sport, Wiegman instructed ITV Sport: “We have now to be tight, particularly constructing, creating. At moments the place we do not anticipate to lose the ball – we weren’t adequate at retaining it at present and it is a exhausting lesson for us.”
Stanway will little question be taught from her expertise in Belgium, and is an total reflection of the place England want to enhance as an entire. Once more, loads for the Lionesses to consider forward of the subsequent worldwide break.