Sarina Wiegman: Lauren James was subbed off because ‘we wanted more energy in the team’

England limped to an uninspiring 1-1 draw against Sweden on Friday, settling for a point to kickstart their qualifying campaign for EURO2025. The Lionesses will look to retain their European crown in Switzerland next summer, but must first progress through a difficult group that also includes France and the Republic of Ireland.

As she did against the Blågult when they met in the EURO2022 semifinals, Alessia Russo worked her way onto the scoresheet – although her diving header on Friday was admittedly less acrobat than her backheeled attempt.

Reflecting on the draw, Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman told reporters that ‘we scored a great goal that gave us momentum in the game. Second half, I thought that the goal was really unnecessary that they scored, because we gave away a throw-in and from that throw-in, they scored from that. That was disappointing.’

CREDIT: Kerrie Jacobs-Bryant [FromTheSpot]

‘I just want to talk about the team performance because I think as a team, we had to make quicker decisions. We had to pass the ball quicker, and we were struggling a little bit with that and of course you don’t get many spaces because they defended really well. The second half, we had more depth in the game when we brought in players.’

‘I think this group is really tough and of course I’m disappointed with the draw – we want to win, and I think if you look at the end of the game, we were very close to scoring a goal. I think overall, if you look at the game, it was a pretty even game.’

Despite her goal, Russo was withdrawn with ten minutes still to play at Wembley Stadium – and the move attracted criticism from a number of pundits and journalists. Wiegman stood by her decision post-match, explaining that ‘everyone has opinions of course, but we wanted to change something. I think Alessia played well but tactically we wanted to change a couple of things, so we brought Lauren Hemp inside and she brings something different – and also with Beth Mead and Chloe Kelly, we just wanted to get something different.’

CREDIT: Kerrie Jacobs-Bryant [FromTheSpot]

Lauren James had been replaced by Beth Mead ten minutes earlier, with Wiegman telling journalists that she ‘wanted more energy in the team. Of course we know that [James] can always decide a game, but the tempo dropped a little bit. I think we got that, it brings some different things in the game and I thought we had some good opportunities to score our second goal. It was a tactical decision.’

Squad selection issues were the main topic of discussion during Friday’s post-match press conference, with Leah Williamson the name on everybody’s tongue after the Arsenal defender was named on the bench.

Asked how close she was to being named in the starting eleven, Wiegman batted away the question. ‘There are many players close to making the starting lineup, she was available today. I don’t expect that she got any injuries during this evening,’ she joked, ‘so she’s still available for Tuesday but first we’re going to review the game tomorrow, then we’re going to prepare for next Tuesday and then the closer we get to Tuesday, we’ll make some decisions.’

‘She’s not injured, otherwise she wouldn’t have been in the squad and I would have told you she’s injured.’

CREDIT: Kerrie Jacobs-Bryant [FromTheSpot]

Peter Gerhardsson had addressed the media prior to Wiegman taking questions, and the Swedish head coach admitted that his side targeted Keira Walsh throughout the match. Asked for her opinion on the comment, Wiegman joked that ‘we basically have to solve that every game, and we were expecting this.’

England will look to pick up their first win of the EURO2025 qualifying campaign on Tuesday, when they face the Republic of Ireland at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.