Euro 2025 qualification: Sweden hold England at Wembley

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd is challenged by Keira Walsh during the UEFA Women's European Qualifier match between England and Sweden
Johanna Rytting Kaneryd is challenged by Keira Walsh during the UEFA Women's European Qualifier match between England and Sweden (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

In their first Euro 2025 qualification match, England’s bid to defend their European title got off to a shaky start following a tense 1-1 draw with Sweden at Wembley.

Peter Gerhardsson’s side started well, pinning England into their own defensive third and creating a couple of half chances in the opening moments of the game.

In the fourth minute, a foul on Arsenal’s Alessia Russo awarded the Lionesses a free-kick and their first opportunity of the night. Chasing down a loose ball from Jonna Andersson, Russo was clattered by ex-Chelsea skipper Magdalena Eriksson. The England forward required lengthy treatment following the collision.

When play did resume, Alex Greenwood’s in-swinging ball was cleared only as far as Grace Clinton on the edge of the box, but she couldn’t set herself up and shot over.

An uncharacteristic giveaway from Keira Walsh in the centre of the pitch allowed Johanna Rytting Kaneryd to set Fridolina Rolfö away on goal. Fortunately for the hosts, Rolfö dragged her shot past Mary Earps’ far post.

Niamh Charles had a great chance to break the deadlock with 24 minutes gone. A long ball forward found her in the six-yard box but she couldn’t quite adjust her feet in time. England did find the breakthrough little more than a minute later, somewhat against the run of play.

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Russo nets for England

It was Russo who started and finished the move, firstly showing great strength with her back to goal to fend off the attention of her marker to find Walsh, who in turn played it wide to Lauren James. True to her mercurial best, James whipped in a sensational cross allowing Russo to stoop head England into the lead.

The visitors wouldn’t lie down, however. Within minutes of the restart, Filippa Angeldahl fired over and Kosovare Asllani had an attempt deflected wide for a corner.

Just before the break, Clinton had a chance eight yards out. The ball skimmed away from her at the decisive moment and her attempt was blocked.

Sarina Wiegman’s side led at the break, but were aware of the threat posed by the World Cup bronze medalists.

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Second half

The second half began in much of the same fashion as the first, with Sweden pressing England and suffocating them. The visitors didn’t allow the Lionesses a moment’s peace.

It was something Wiegman acknowledged after the game, admitting England ‘struggled a bit’ with their press. The boss also said that her side ‘could’ve done better decision making on the ball’ but they ‘found it hard to find the spaces’.

A Sweden corner with seven minutes played was cleared only as far as Kaneryd. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Chelsea star blazed the ball into the stands. It was a half where England had to work for even the slightest half chance.

A couple of corners in quick succession ended with Bronze heading straight at Jennifer Falk. That was as much as England had to show for the opening 15 minutes.

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Just before the hour mark, a Sweden corner was punched away by Earps. England’s keeper did so well under a considerable amount of pressure under her own crossbar.

The ball fell to Angeldahl on the edge of the box who let loose with a rocket. Her effort was charged down by Man City teammate Lauren Hemp.

Sweden squares it up

With 25 minutes to play, the Swedes got the equaliser their play had deserved.

Rosa Kafaji — who had only come as a sub three minutes earlier — made an immediate impact to cross deep towards the back post over the head of Bronze. Waiting to pounce was Rolfö, and she made no mistake to head through the legs of Earps and silence Wembley.

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It might have gotten worse for the home side three minutes later. A long ball set striker Stina Blackstenius away through on goal. With only Earps to beat, the Arsenal markswoman inexplicably dragged her shot wide of goal.

England gradually managed to lift the heavy yellow blanket they had been under for the most of the evening. Hemp — stretching and straining every sinew — nearly connected with Beth Mead’s cross, but it was just too far in front.

England finished the stronger side and, but for Falk, would’ve taken three vital points.

Hemp was first to be denied by the Häcken shot stopper with a fantastic save to spread herself at the feet of the Man City winger.

Eriksson was on hand to block the rebound on the line at the expense of a corner. The ball eventually found Mead at the back post. The forward took her shot on the bounce only for Falk to claw the ball away.

Euros qualification continues

For all the England pressure, they couldn’t find a way through for a second time. The team will be left to rue the two dropped points at home. Next comes a visit to Dublin on Tuesday where the Republic of Ireland lie in wait.

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