Defending champions England kicked off their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Sweden in front of 63,248 fans at Wembley.

Alessia Russo nodded home Lauren James’ delivery to open the scoring inside 24 minutes, and the Lionesses managed to preserve their lead at the break despite Sweden threatening.

An equaliser felt imminent after the interval, and finally came when Fridolina Rolfo headed past Mary Earps, while the Lionesses were lucky not to fall behind when Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius squandered a good chance for Sweden.

England's Alessia Russo celebrates with team-mates after opening the scoring against Sweden
England’s Alessia Russo celebrates with team-mates after opening the scoring against Sweden

Euro 2022 captain Leah Williamson watched on from the bench as Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp led a late rally, but could not find the finishing touch as the sides settled for a point.

Williamson missed out on the Lionesses’ historic World Cup campaign last summer after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament, and was also forced to pull out of February’s friendlies with a hamstring issue after being named in her first England side in 11 months.

Sweden's Fridolina Rolfo celebrates after equalising against England
Fridolina Rolfo celebrates her equaliser

The 27-year-old made her Gunners comeback in January but the journey has not been smooth with her most recent setback coming during Sunday’s League Cup final, which she started with a taped-up knee before being replaced in the second half.

How England were held by Sweden

England's Alessia Russo in action against Sweden
England’s Alessia Russo gave England the lead at Wembley

Grace Clinton tried to volley England into an early lead, and there was worry for Sarina Wiegman when Russo went down after clattering into former Chelsea skipper Magdalena Eriksson, receiving lengthy treatment to her lower leg before she was deemed fit to continue.

Barcelona’s Rolfo came close with Sweden’s first good chance, sending Earps sprawling with a low effort that edged just wide of the far post minutes before Russo broke the deadlock.

It began with a fine effort by James to control the ball at the edge of the area and deliver a pinpoint clipped cross to the awaiting Russo, who stooped to head home in the 24th minute.

Sweden looked to reply on several occasions and largely looked the more threatening side in the half’s closing stages, but England clung on to their lead as Wiegman made her first change, swapping Clinton for Ella Toone, before Lucy Bronze had a weak header simply saved by Jennifer Falk.

Sweden boss Peter Gerhardsson made a pair of his own changes, a move that proved prescient when England momentarily switched off and allowed substitute Rosa Kafaji to make an instant impact, delivering the cross for Rolfo to nod past Earps.

England were lucky not to concede a quick second when Arsenal’s Blackstenius, who netted the winner in the Gunners’ Conti Cup final, found herself one-on-one with Earps but directed her effort wide.

On came more Euro 2022 stars – that tournament’s Golden Boot winner Mead in place of James and Chloe Kelly, who memorably scored the winner in that tournament’s final, while Jess Carter replaced Chelsea team-mate Niamh Charles.

The Lionesses had less than 10 minutes to alter the outcome, and they came close when Hemp latched on to the rebound of her own effort and fired a shot that Falk, who had slid out to make the initial save, would have had no chance of stopping.

It took a well-placed Eriksson to clear off the line, the stalemate standing after a fine save from Falk to deny Mead and preserve the point.

Wiegman: England were lucky

England boss Sarina Wiegman speaking to ITV:

“It was a tough game against a very tough opponent, we knew that before the game. We want to have the ball a lot, how they press we struggled a bit, we went too much inside and short options we chose.

“We could have done better with our decision-making on the ball but we found it hard. They defended really well. We were struggling at moments to get the high press but we had to deal with the qualities they showed.

“The goal we conceded was really unnecessary, the throw was unnecessary and we didn’t press the cross enough. We were able to press that ball and take out the cross, sometimes those things happen.

“We were lucky after the goal because we were not able to stop the long ball. We have to do those things better. We could have scored at the end but that is how close this game was.”

Asked about Russo’s goal, she said: “It was a moment, right before we also had an opportunity. The position of Alessia was really good. She stayed far away and the preparation, cross and finish were really good.”

Russo: Every point counts in this group

England forward Alessia Russo speaking to ITV:

“They’re [Sweden] a top side, our group is tough. We’re a good side too so I think it’s disappointing but we’ve come up against a strong side. We’ll reflect and learn and get ready to go again on Tuesday.

“Our standards are high, we know we can demand higher of each other. We will own that but across the board there were lower standards that we can improve on.

“They pressed us well, it’s not an easy game. We struggled to figure out the problems but we did get a draw.

“Always nice to score at Wembley, the home of English football. I love playing for England and playing here so it’s nice to get on the scoresheet.

“It’s massive, we know the group is result and every result and every point counts.”

What’s next?

England are next in action on Tuesday as they take on the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium; kick-off 7.30pm.

Sweden will also host France in Group A3 on the same evening; kick-off 6pm.

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