What lies ahead for England following their Nations League defeat in Belgium?

By Sports Desk November 01, 2023

England were handed another blow in their Nations League campaign on Tuesday night after losing 3-2 to Belgium.

A late penalty from captain Tessa Wullaert handed the Red Flames victory as the Lionesses tumbled to third place in Group A1.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what has happened to England in the competition.

What’s actually at stake in the Nations League?

This year marks the inaugural Nations League competition in women’s football and takes a similar format to the men’s edition, where 51 competing nations are divided into two leagues of 16 and one of 19.

Crucially there is plenty to play for in the tournament as the winners from League A will reach the finals, which also act as Europe’s 2024 Olympic qualifiers – meaning that a place in Paris is up for grabs.

Tuesday’s loss to Belgium means England’s hopes of Olympic qualification are in danger with only two games remaining in the competition to try and turn things around.

What happened on Tuesday?

Having beaten Belgium at Leicester on Friday night, the Lionesses travelled to Leuven in the reverse fixture on Tuesday hoping to boost their chances of qualification.

They got off to a poor start, falling behind to Laura De Neve’s ninth-minute free-kick before Manchester City defender Alex Greenwood was carried off the pitch on a stretcher following a clash of heads and received treatment on the pitch for over 10 minutes. City confirmed on Wednesday that she will return to the club for further assessment.

England took the lead through goals from Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby in quick succession, but Wullaert levelled things deep into first-half stoppage time.

The Belgian captain came to her side’s rescue again in the 85th minute, slotting home from the penalty spot to leapfrog England into second.

How have England done so far?

Defeat to Belgium handed England their second Nations League loss in four matches, but the Lionesses have already endured plenty of tough challenges in Group A1.

Kicking off their campaign in Sunderland, England were able to seal a 2-1 win in a closely-fought contest against Scotland where the visitors were unable to capitalise on a multitude of chances in the second half.

However, defeat followed in Utrecht as Renate Jansen struck in the 90th minute for the Netherlands to squeeze a 2-1 victory against their former boss Sarina Wiegman.

Lauren Hemp’s goal gave England an important three points with a 1-0 win against Belgium on Friday, but the reverse fixture ended in defeat on Tuesday.

What does the table look like now?

With two wins and two losses, the Lionesses are third in the table, just one point behind the Red Flames in the standings.

The Netherlands are on track for that vital Olympic spot after back-to-back wins against Scotland ensured they sit at the summit, having won three and lost only one of their four games so far.

Scotland are at the foot of the table with only one point picked up throughout the competition, which came during their 1-1 draw against Belgium in September thanks to Sophie Howard’s last-gasp header.

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England’s slim hopes of Olympic qualification continue in December when the next round of fixtures are set to be played.

The Lionesses kick off matchday five at Wembley, where they come up against the Netherlands on December 1 before travelling to Hampden Park to play their final fixture against Scotland four days later.

Belgium will host Scotland before taking on the Netherlands where two wins would see England miss out on the top spot regardless of how the Lionesses do and Wiegman knows the challenges that lie ahead for her side.

She said post-match on Tuesday: “First of all, we have to win with more than one goal against the Netherlands at Wembley, and then we have to win the other game too, because Belgium is in a very good place too.

“We know we have work to do – we always do, but we have put ourselves in a hard position at the moment.”

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