England’s Olympic qualification has been put in jeopardy following Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Belgium.
The defeat puts the Lionesses third in their Women’s Nations League table with two matches remaining. They sit one point back of Belgium, with Belgium holding the advantage on goal differential. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that it was England’s third loss in five games.
“First of all we have to beat the Netherlands by more than one goal at Wembley [in December] so we know we have work to do,” Sarina Wiegman told ITV. “We have put ourselves in a hard position.”
The 2023 World Cup runners-up face the Netherlands at 2:45 p.m. ET on Dec. 1. The Lionessess lost to the Oranje in their most recent match, a 2-1 defeat in September. And while injuries to key players like Leah Williamson and Beth Mead have plagued the team, there have been other worrying signs.
The Lionesses have allowed six goals in four Women’s Nations League matches. In just seven games, they have just one clean sheet. They’re also not converting their chances. They held possession 73% of the match and had 18 shots – but just five were on target. Belgium, meanwhile scored from three of five total attempts.
“This was a game [where] I think we should have been tighter on the ball,” Wiegman said. “The tempo wasn’t great but we did create lots of chances and we dominated the game totally. We lost the ball and we knew they were dangerous on the counter-attack. It was us that made it hard for ourselves. It’s something we have to get out of our game. We have to do better in the final third.
“We were sloppy on the ball and they were ready for that. They play their long ball and they are gone [on the counter-attack].”
Even still, England players are confident that they can keep their Olympic hopes alive.
“We’ve still got a good chance, we play our next game against the Netherlands at Wembley – a stadium where we like to step up and against a team that we played quite recently,” Lucy Bronze said. “We’ll put this game to bed and look forward to playing the Netherlands and Scotland. They are two really tough games. We’ve left ourselves with a little bit more to do – but it’s not impossible.”