England-Czech Republic 0-0
Sub-edited by: Joe Grant
Only five days since the Lionesses beat the reigning world champions the US at Wembley Stadium with a 2-1 win thanks to goals scored by Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway, England were held to a goalless draw against Czech Republic at The Amex.
Tuesday night`s game in Brighton was supposed to be a walk in the park for the England team that won the heart of the nation after winning the first major tournament since 1966 last summer. The Czech Republic team is only ranked 28th in the world and did not even participate in the Euros last summer, whereas Sarina Wiegman’s side are the fourth best team in the world. Lucy Bronze`s 100th game as a Lioness was supposed to be a celebration for an England side that has only seen triumph in the last months. Instead, the hardworking Czechs defied the odds.
Could the popular Lionesses keep up the momentum?
Prior to the game, one of the main questions was if the Lionesses, who had broken every single attendance record during the Euros, could keep up the momentum to gain interest? Tuesday nights friendly against the Czech Republic with nothing more to play for but pride would show if the women’s game had progressed significantly since the summer.
With an attendance of 21,222 at a cold and windy Amex, it is fair to say that the Women’s game is going strong and the momentum from the Euros win is not going anywhere.
It was a great atmosphere from the start provided by especially families with young girls in the crowd. One can not emphasize enough how badly women’s football craves that younger girls start putting their passion into the sport that needs their support in terms of reaching equality.
The Lionesses had promoted that Tuesday night`s fixture would be dedicated to a campaign called “Let Girls Play”. A campaign striving towards equal access to football in the school world. At half-time volunteers cast t-shirts with that same text printed on them into the crowd. Observing after the game that not only young girls but also boys wore them, made one think that the campaign might have been successful.Embed from Getty Images
Wiegman decided to make a few changes in the starting lineup, giving young players like Lauren James the opportunity to shine. James showed up with a performance well worth a part of the starting lineup and was also very close to scoring with a ball in the post in the starting minutes.
Unfortunately, that was about the only talking point of the first half which was well-reflected in the crowd, as the wave of flashlights was more or less the only entertainment.
Chloe Kelly, the national hero who brought football home, naturally got shown appreciation from the crowd and looked dangerous down the right wing.Embed from Getty Images
One has to admire the Czech defence in the second half, as it worked so well and was so hard for the Lionesses to penetrate, that the game got dull to watch from a spectator’s point of view. Not too far from a game of chess.
Wiegmann’s attempt to get more offensive control of the game by subbing on superstar Beth Mead did not work too well in the end. The simple creation of chances was not there and the passion that was shown in the game against the US was blown away.
England was never really too close to conceding a goal, as the Czechs provided close to no attacking threat at all. But the visitor’s work rate and discipline in the defence were admirable.
Prior to the match, Wiegman`s team had gone 23 games unbeaten, only drawing two. This was only the second time that England would not score under Wiegman.
That if anything is telling what a performance the Czechs put out tonight at the Amex.
A deep-dropping Czech Republican side seemed to be too much to handle for the English offensive tonight. The visitor’s compact defence showed itself almost impenetrable. Credit has to go to the goalkeeper as well, only 21-year-old Olivie Lukasova who took a couple of great saves the few times the English attackers got the chance.
No reason to worry … yet
There is still plenty of time for the preparations for the World Cup next year, the next challenge will be in November with friendlies against Japan and Norway.
Not being able to score against a side ranked 28th in the world after such an impressive record, is obviously a disappointment. But it is not time yet to push any panic buttons.
The upcoming games next month might very well prove that this performance might have been just a miscalculation.
The great win over the US last Friday might have cost a lot of energy and probably lowered the stakes towards this game.
However, it is now important that Wiegman gets the team back on the winning track as quickly as possible.Embed from Getty Images
In terms of doing as well in the World Cup as in the Euros last summer, the Lionesses need to keep the flow going.
Most of the opponents that England faces in the World Cup will most likely take this game and the Czech defence as a prime example of how to stop the English offensive with a deep-lying defence. It is worrying that the Czech side today might have found a weakness in the English side that others might take advantage of.
We will surely be wiser after the upcoming games in November.