Soccer

We never lost trust – Sarina Wiegman confident England would fight back for win

England head coach Sarina Wiegman was confident her side could fight back against the Netherlands (John Walton/PA)
England head coach Sarina Wiegman was confident her side could fight back against the Netherlands (John Walton/PA) England head coach Sarina Wiegman was confident her side could fight back against the Netherlands (John Walton/PA)

England boss Sarina Wiegman maintained full faith in her side to stage the stunning second-half comeback that lifted the Lionesses to a 3-2 win over the Netherlands in their penultimate Women’s Nations League group-stage clash at Wembley.

Needing a victory to remain in contention to finish top in Group A1 and advance in the tournament, which serves as a qualifier for next summer’s Olympics in Paris, England quickly dug themselves a hole after Lineth Beerensteyn netted twice before the break to put the Dutch 2-0 up.

But the Lionesses battled back after the restart on a frigid night in London, Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp stoking the crowd back into a frenzy by the hour mark before substitute Ella Toone sealed a dramatic victory in stoppage time.

Wiegman said: “I was actually pretty calm. I was very disappointed they scored the second goal because I didn’t think we played bad. The second goal we were a little bit unlucky, it was an unnecessary goal. We didn’t play bad but we needed some more. We truly believed we could turn it around. We never lost trust.

“At half-time we said the game was absolutely not over and that if we score a goal they can become a bit shaky.

“They were struggling with the defence with how we played in attack. We also did a tactical thing we needed to do better in defence. We said everyone needed to step up and bring something extra. You could tell the players gave everything because they were really tired.”

It leaves England in second place in the group, level on points with the Netherlands and one in front of Belgium, ahead of concluding their group matches by playing Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday. Belgium drew 1-1 with Scotland in Friday’s other Group A1 contest.

England and the Dutch are level in terms of head-to-head record, with the latter – who face Belgium at home next week – having a goal difference superior by three, while England will finish their group stage away at relegated Scotland on Tuesday.

Despite the victory, England’s keeper Mary Earps was left in tears as she spoke post-match about the two goals the Lionesses conceded, the second of which saw her get her glove to the ball only to see it slip past her and trickle in – something that left the Manchester United stopper beating the turf in frustration.

Knowing England needed to win by two goals to take over at the top of the group, Earps told ITV:  “I thought the girls were unbelievable to come back into the game. I thought they were unbelievable, the subs that came on impacted the game.

“I am just sorry that my performance has cost the team tonight.

“That [second goal] will haunt me for a long time today, I am really gutted because it could have been a really special night.

“The team were unbelievable, don’t get me wrong, the goals are unbelievable, the way that they played and moved it around showed great patience at times, real tenacity, real intensity to the play.

“I am a competitor but when it is not good enough, it is not good enough and I can only apologise to my team-mates and to the fans, I take that fully with my whole chest.”

England v Netherlands – UEFA Women’s Nations League – Group A1 – Wembley Stadium
England v Netherlands – UEFA Women’s Nations League – Group A1 – Wembley Stadium England goalkeeper Mary Earps apologised for her performance after the game (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The apology was utterly unnecessary for Wiegman, who said: “I spoke to her very shortly and I don’t want her to talk like that.

“We win as a team and lose as a team. That is part of the game. Of course, she didn’t let the team down [as] everyone does her best. You only let the team down when you don’t put effort into the game, and we never don’t put effort in.

“Everyone stepped up. We needed to step up as a team. I think everyone did that.”

The structure of this inaugural Nations League tournament means England will need to beat group-mates Scotland on Tuesday if they hope to advance – and as the Lionesses are the nominated home nation to qualify a Team GB, an England victory is also the only way Scottish players would have any hope of playing in the Olympics.

Asked about the strange situation, Netherlands boss Andries Jonker said: “I think about sports history. For many years, Great Britain has participated in the Olympics as Great Britain. It’s strange, but it’s not going to change.

“When the draw was made, I said to the players the only thing we can do is keep this in our hands. Straight away, it was annoying, but it wasn’t going to change.”