‘Poor’ England must ‘demand higher’ in Euros qualifying

England players react to conceding against Sweden

England must “demand higher” from each other, striker Alessia Russo has said after an underwhelming start to their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign.

Sarina Wiegman’s defending European champions took the lead at Wembley Stadium on Friday thanks to Russo’s header but were far from their flowing best, giving away possession too easily and looking vulnerable to Sweden’s counter-attacking threat.

They switched off in the second half, allowing Sweden back into the game when Fridolina Rolfo nodded in at the back post to make it 1-1.

Drawn in a tough group with Sweden, France and the Republic of Ireland, who England face next in Dublin on Tuesday, this felt like a missed opportunity to capitalise in front of a home crowd.

Russo, who was one of England’s brightest players before being substituted in the second half, admitted to frustrations with the performance.

“Sweden are a top side, our group is tough. We’re a good side too so I think it’s disappointing but we’ve come up against a strong side,” she told ITV.

“Our standards are high, we know we can demand higher of each other. We will own that, but across the board, there were lower standards that we can improve on.

“We struggled to figure out the problems but we did get a draw. Every result and every point counts.”

It was a somewhat flat atmosphere at Wembley after a big build-up before kick-off with fans throwing paper aeroplanes in the second half, before getting out their phone camera lights as England’s performance dipped.

Sweden, ranked sixth in the world, know what the Lionesses are capable of having fallen to a heavy semi-final defeat at Euro 2022 on the way to Sarina Wiegman’s side lifting the trophy.

But as Wiegman said, this was a far more even encounter.

“This group is really tough. Of course I’m disappointed – because we always want to win,” she said.

“At the end of the game, if you watch it back, we were very close to scoring a goal. Overall it was a pretty equal game. We had more possession of the ball but you can see also how dangerous their counter-attacks were. I think the draw reflects how the game was.”

England will also face France, ranked third in the world, in qualifying. Only the top two teams from their group qualify automatically for next summer’s Euros in Switzerland, with the other two sides entering the play-offs.

And former England midfielder Karen Carney said the Lionesses needed to improve their concentration for the remaining fixtures, adding that Sweden were the better team in the second half.

“If England were switched on, Sweden’s goal doesn’t happen. Lucy Bronze wasn’t paying attention at the back post,” she added.

“Sweden were the better team in the second half. Tuesday’s game against the Republic of Ireland is a must-win. This is the group of death and it is really, really tricky.

“We are European champions and we need three points. It is a massive game and the performance needs to improve but we need three points.”

Former England international Ian Wright added: “England gave Sweden the impetus. We were very poor tonight, especially in the midfield area, where we were very sloppy. We are fortunate to not lose that game.”

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