Simply days after beating Belgium in one in all England’s higher latest 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 objectives from Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby – scoring on her first worldwide begin in over a 12 months – 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 more durable, with the Lionesses now third in Group A1.
However simply how did Sarina Wiegman’s facet go from profitable 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?
For almost all of Wiegman’s tenure, England’s defences might barely be breached. On their method 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 objectives out – all whereas having one of many world’s greatest goalkeepers in between the sticks.
For the reason that sport towards Colombia, England have saved only one clear sheet in seven video games. In Belgium on Tuesday, they conceded three objectives in a sport underneath Wiegman for the primary time.
Some might level to latest defensive adjustments – the Lionesses switched to a again three halfway via the World Cup which aided their attacking play, however didn’t all the time present the solidity wanted on the different finish. It has been a swap between a 3 and 4 since.
Niamh Charles has additionally just lately are available in at left-back after her effective begin to the season with Chelsea, though the full-back place is arguably the place England wrestle at occasions.
Whereas often seeing loads of the ball, the full-backs push greater up, leaving England uncovered in defence. That was clear for Wullaert’s first objective, with Charles and Bronze unable to get again to supply a lot assist.
It then doesn’t assist the 2 centre backs, particularly when dealing with a crew who proved to be lightening fast on the counter-attack as Belgium are. “They are not taking part in a possession sport, as quickly as they win it they’re gone,” Wiegman instructed ITV Sport.
In fact, 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 concerning the Lionesses defence, and haven’t seemed convincing in a while. Maybe after one in all their heaviest defeats underneath Wiegman, it could drive change or on the very least, gamers the prospect to mirror and enhance on their very own performances.
No drawback creating possibilities in Leuven – now ending them is the difficulty
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 would been slightly bit extra scientific,” Lucy Bronze instructed ITV4. “We wanted to do higher within the last third,” Wiegman added.
Alessia Russo, Kirby and Rachel Daly will all look again on missed alternatives which might have painted a really totally different image for the Lionesses’ Nations League hopes.
Extra extensively, even when England weren’t testing Nicky Evrard, they’d a lot of the ball in attacking areas at different occasions however have been let down by an overhit last cross or poor supply into the field.
England should be higher – and Russo will shoulder lots 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 take a look at a substitute for lead the road? Daly was the WSL’s high scorer final season and has netted twice for Villa this time period regardless of their robust begin.
She should really feel she’s value a beginning berth via the center, a possibility she hasn’t been afforded since July.
The one Positive 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?
In some ways, sure. Not due to the incident itself, though it’ll certainly have affected the gamers to see their team-mate and buddy stretchered off, however her defensive qualities have been sorely missed.
Greenwood was one in all England’s greatest gamers at a typically underwhelming World Cup for different members of the squad. Though England’s defence has struggled in latest video games, there’s a consolation realizing Greenwood is there to have a significant impression.
Maybe this was greatest demonstrated with two first half possibilities for Wullaert. The primary inside six minutes noticed the Belgium captain drive via after a sloppy midfield cross. Nonetheless, Greenwood simply dropped again to play Wullaert offside and the flag ultimately went up.
Later, as Wullaert raced via to equalise for Belgium, neither Millie Shiny or Jess Carter might get near the striker. Whereas positioning would even have been totally different, Greenwood’s tactical pondering and defensive talents have been actually missed in that second.
Her means on the ball and the following errors made in her absence have been an enormous a part of the Lionesses downfall too, with Lucy Bronze telling ITV Sport: “Alex having to return off when she’s one in all our key ball gamers did not assist, however an identical factor occurred towards Holland once we gave the ball away too simply.”
Hopefully, Greenwood will recuperate properly from her concussion and be accessible for England’s important last Nations League video games in December. It is clear she shall be sorely missed in any other case.
Stanway struggles hamper England
It was an evening to neglect for Georgia Stanway. Her poor midfield passes allowed Wullaert via 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 probably the most essential moments. There isn’t 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 every thing went towards her on Tuesday – and it typically did.
Talking concerning the crew total after the sport, Wiegman instructed ITV Sport: “We’ve got 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 the moment and it is a onerous lesson for us.”
Stanway will little question study from her expertise in Belgium, and is an total reflection of the place England want to enhance as an entire. Once more, a lot for the Lionesses to consider forward of the subsequent worldwide break.