“Obviously, we’re disappointed and quite frustrated,” reflected Gemma Davies on a dissatisfying afternoon for England’s U19s. “We were slow coming out. I think generally we were quite sloppy, not making or connecting simple passes and perhaps forcing things that we didn’t need to. And I’m disappointed actually with our chances created.”

As their manager stated, it was a tough performance all round as the Young Lionesses returned to action in the heat of Frýdek-Místek on Thursday. A disjointed display, mixed in with a lack of luck, saw them lose out to high-flying Sweden in their second game of Euro 2022.

England came into this fixture filled with confidence after their second half dismantling of Norway. Davies had hinted pre-match that they might try something different to try and nullify the Swedish threat in transition. There were fresh legs in the form of Lucy Parry, Lucy Watson and Lucia Kendall coming into the starting line-up. There was also a change in formation with Laura Blindkilde Brown joining Grace Clinton higher up the pitch, sitting just behind her in the pocket.

“We decided to change the press to try and match Sweden in their wide areas,” Davies explained post match. “That was really important, because that’s where their strengths lie. So we wanted to match them. And then, I guess that transitions quite nicely into an in-possession strategy around getting Laura Brown in the pocket and playing two pivots to try and pull them out of their block. They played a 5-4-1 against Germany, and we felt they would do the same against us.”

Sweden also came into this fixture with morale high after earning a, perhaps unexpected, 2-0 win over Germany. Caroline Sjöblom made just the one change to that side, bringing in Matilda Nildén for goalscorer Matilda Vinberg.

In all honesty, England struggled from the start. Whether it was adapting to the new formation or being a little leggy, they found it hard to find their rhythm. They were not helped by conceding so early. In the sixth minute, Elma Nelhage beat two defenders in the box to head home Anna Sandberg’s corner. It was the second time England have conceded from that position this tournament.



As the Young Lionesses continued to find life difficult, Sweden were looking to hit their groove. Evelina Duljan was dazzling with her speed on the counter, exploiting the spaces afforded to her. She was almost the catalyst for a second Swedish goal, winning it off Watson in her own box before breaking upfield to set up Svea Rehnberg. Khiara Keating produced a smart stop in the English goal.

A water break gave England time to regroup and they returned to the pitch with more about them. The tenacity of Clinton so almost paid off as she pounced on Serina Backmark’s hesitancy in the Swedish goal. As the ball dropped from the keeper’s gloves, Clinton headed it off the underside of the crossbar only to watch it bounce agonisingly out of the goal. She was equally as unlucky minutes later when her shot trickled along the goal line. Did it go in? The young forward was convinced; the assistant referee not so much and Sweden’s lead remained intact.

The second half started slightly flat, a mixture of substitutions and the conditions clearly taking its toll. Brown continued to be England’s brightest player, full of energy and looking instigate moves in attack. They were lucky not to pay for some lack in concentration, with Duljan denied twice by Tara Bourne’s recovery tackles. The Swedes were also a constant threat from set pieces.

The introduction of Emily Murphy added a much needed spark to England offence with 20 minutes left to play. They began to find their groove with some slick passing across the park. She set up a good opportunity for Kendall, who skewed an effort wide of the mark, before Maisie Symonds, another substitute, miscued a good opportunity.

As the game petered out, the Young Lionesses suffered their first defeat of this European season. Afterwards, Davies questioned the tactics and how effective they had been: “It was just a strategy to try and, I guess, almost exaggerate the space between their units and try and get our creative players on the ball. I’m not sure really how I feel now. I need to watch the game back, I think.”

Despite a frustrating afternoon, the positives for England will be that progression is still very much in their hands. Their final group opponent, Germany, were defeated by Norway earlier in the day meaning that victory on Sunday will see the Young Lionesses through. This was the message Davies was keen to focus on as they look ahead to the opportunity. “If we start how we’ve just finished that game, I think that we can take the game to the Germans,” she said. “All we need to worry about is just winning. We just got to win and that’s our focus. We’ll make sure we review, recover and follow our same process. And hopefully, it’s a better performance, first and foremost; and we get a result that will see us through.”

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