England begin Euro 2025 qualifying campaign with draw against Sweden

By Sports Desk April 05, 2024

Defending champions England kicked off their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Sweden in front of 63,248 at Wembley.

Alessia Russo nodded home Lauren James’ delivery to open the scoring inside 24 minutes, and the Lionesses managed to preserve their lead at the break despite Sweden threatening.

An equaliser felt imminent after the interval, and finally came when Fridolina Rolfo headed past Mary Earps, while the Lionesses were lucky not to fall behind when Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius squandered a good chance for Sweden.

Euro 2022 captain Leah Williamson watched on from the bench as Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp led a late rally, but could not find the finishing touch as the sides settled for a point.

Williamson missed out on the Lionesses’ historic World Cup campaign last summer after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament, and was also forced to pull out of February’s friendlies with a hamstring issue after being named in her first England side in 11 months.

The 27-year-old made her Gunners comeback in January but the journey has not been smooth with her most recent setback coming during Sunday’s League Cup final, which she started with a taped-up knee before being replaced in the second half.

Grace Clinton tried to volley England into an early lead, and there was worry for Sarina Wiegman when Russo went down after clattering into former Chelsea skipper Magdalena Eriksson, receiving lengthy treatment to her lower leg before she was deemed fit to continue.

Barcelona’s Rolfo came close with Sweden’s first good chance, sending Earps sprawling with a low effort that edged just wide of the far post minutes before Russo broke the deadlock.

It began with a fine effort by James to control the ball at the edge of the area and deliver a pinpoint clipped cross to the awaiting Russo, who stooped to head home in the 24th minute.

Sweden looked to reply on several occasions and largely looked the more threatening side in the half’s closing stages, but England clung on to their lead as Wiegman made her first change, swapping Clinton for Ella Toone, before Lucy Bronze had a weak header simply saved by Jennifer Falk.

Sweden boss Peter Gerhardsson made a pair of his own changes, a move that proved prescient when England momentarily switched off and allowed substitute Rosa Kafaji to make an instant impact, delivering the cross for Rolfo to nod past Earps.

England were lucky not to concede a quick second when Arsenal’s Blackstenius, who netted the winner in the Gunners’ Conti Cup final, found herself one-on-one with Earps but directed her effort wide.

On came more Euro 2022 stars – that tournament’s Golden Boot winner Mead in place of James and Chloe Kelly, who memorably scored the winner in that tournament’s final, while Jess Carter replaced Chelsea team-mate Niamh Charles.

The Lionesses had less than 10 minutes to alter the outcome, and they came close when Hemp latched on to the rebound of her own effort and fired a shot that Falk, who had slide out to make the initial save, would have had no chance of stopping.

It took a well-placed Eriksson to clear off the line, the stalemate standing after a fine save from Falk to deny Mead and preserve the point.

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