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No let-up for England after vital win over France – Alessia Russo

Alessia Russo, right, scored a crucial goal for England (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Alessia Russo, right, scored a crucial goal for England (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Alessia Russo challenged England to raise the bar even higher in their final two Euro 2025 group stage qualifiers after they secured a vital 2-1 victory over France in Saint Etienne.

The in-form Arsenal forward got her name on the scoresheet with what proved to be the winner after Georgia Stanway blasted home a long-range opener and the hosts could only claw back a consolation through Kadidiatou Diani’s second-half penalty.

Defending European champions England, who need to finish in the top two in their group to book an automatic ticket to next summer’s tournament, bounced back from Friday’s defeat to group A3 leaders France with a first half boss Sarina Wiegman branded as “one of the best we’ve ever played.”

Russo told ITV: “We just spoke as a team that our standards have to be higher. We probably let them slip a little bit in these past few qualifiers but we know the talent we have, we know the potential that we have as a group and we saw a lot more flashes of it tonight.

“I think we got our standards back to where we wanted them. There were still parts that we’ll work on, for sure, but that’s a performance that we want to keep going forward now.

“We know that the level is higher than ever and we know that to do anything at the Euros, to even qualify, it’s going to be harder than ever.

“We’re proud, we’ll have a little bit of a rest and then we’re back in July for another massive camp.”

France goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, left, saves from Alessia Russo
France goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin saves from Alessia Russo (PA)

England remain third in group A3 after Sweden maintained their grip on second place with a 1-0 over the Republic of Ireland in an earlier kick-off.

Wiegman’s side were determined to redeem themselves from Friday’s loss, and with each chance created looked even more determined to right the wrongs of that defeat, particularly in a first half where they might have wanted even more from about a half-dozen chances.

It was cagier to start the second period, and the result was hardly a certainty after captain Leah Williamson tripped Grace Geyoro and Diani sent Hannah Hampton the wrong way in the 72nd minute.

France continued to grow back into the game, and it took a fine save from Hampton – starting in place of the injured Mary Earps – to deny the hosts a last-gasp leveller.

The Lionesses are level on seven points with Sweden, who the England beat in the Euro 2022 semi-finals, but the Scandinavians remain second on a goal difference advantage, while France – who would have booked their trip to Switzerland with a win on Tuesday night – maintain a two-point lead over both sides with two group stage games left.

England coach Sarina Wiegman
Sarina Wiegman’s side have their qualification hopes in their own hands (Owen Humphreys/PA)

To England’s advantage is that they have a chance to further drive their own destiny in July, when they will visit Sweden in Gothenburg after the Republic of Ireland’s trip to Carrow Road, while Sweden and France also still have to face each other for a second time.

Wiegman added: “Of course (the win) gives us a boost. You want to win, and we have a better position now. The group is totally open.

“We said from the beginning, this is a really tough group with top-level teams, and this is exactly what you see. It helps when you win, and most of all we did better than Friday.

“The first half, I think that’s one of our best halves we’ve ever played.”