A number of changes were made from the squad that featured in the World Cup to that which were given the call up to the friendlies. Against Belgium, England were without Ellen White, Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott when the squad was announced. Later into the camp, it came as a surprise to the fans of the Lionesses when Alex Greenwood and Fran Kirby both pulled out of the training camp, the duo both injured.
The injuries paved the way for a number of players to make their way back into the side. As expected, veteran Jodie Taylor replaced White up top with Demi Stokes in for Greenwood. In a position that many players could have held, Carly Telford started in net. Rachel Daly and Georgia Stanway also found their way back into the side, the latter making her 14th Lionesses appearance.
Prior to the game it was announced that right-back Lucy Bronze was named the UEFA Womens' Player of the Year. She performed tremendously in the World Cup, and was brilliant with her club side of Lyon - at which she won the Champions League and the French top flight.
England grab quick double
The game started with neither side really creating too many chances, but the strike partnership of Stanway and Taylor soon proved to be deadly.
From around 30 yards out, the 20-year-old spotted a gap and fed an inch-perfect curling ball through the backline and onto the edge of the six-yard box, where teammate Taylor was lurking to calmly tap the ball into the back of the net over Nicky Evrard.
Just four minutes later, Bronze found herself on the floor but managed to play the ball through to the pass of striker Taylor who was one-on-one. Her shot was denied by the Belgian goalkeeper, but she only managed to parry it out to her right and into the path of Arsenal's Beth Mead - who slotted home into an open net.
Belgium draw level
With most fans fixated on a Belgium fan trying to drum up support alone with a megaphone, the Red Flames earned themselves a corner. After the delivery, a chaotic scramble in the box saw Bronze make a brilliant goal-line clearance, only for it to ricochet off of the post and Carly Telford's back and for the ball to end up in the back of the net. The goal was awarded to Heleen Jacques at first, but the decision was changed to an own-goal from the Lionesses keeper.
With two minutes of time added on, England suffered another blow right on the whistle. Ella van Kerkhoven latched onto a cross into the box and her low diving header passed Telford and ended up in the back of the England net to make the scores even going into half time.
Red Flames grab the lead
After throwing away what would have seemed to have been a relatively comfortable 2-0 lead, England let in a third early on into the second half. Ten minutes in, calamitous defending once again from the Lionesses allowed Kerkhoven to net her second of the night. England’s defending has been troubling throughout the night, and the side could have done a lot more for all three games.
The goal was swiftly followed by two substitutions for England. Fara Williams replaced Stanway to earn her 171st cap for her nation, and Telford made way for Mary Earps in net.
With the game down, Belgium made two changes of their own. Justine Vanaevermaet and Shari Van Belle replaced Laura De Neve and Davina Philtjens retrospectively.
England used their ‘get out of jail’ card on the 75th minute mark. A blatant handball from the Belgium defender handed the Lionesses a penalty and a lifeline. The opportunity was given to Nikita Parris to step up, and she did so well smashing the ball high into the top-left corner and leaving the keeper with no chance.
Her goal was followed by two substitutions - Taylor and herself being subbed off for Bethany England and Lucy Staniforth. England’s entry earned her her first cap for the senior side.
With the clock ticking down, each team made even more changed. Three for Belgium; Missipo, Van de Velde and Van Gorpe replacing Deloose, Jacques and Wullaert. For the Lionesses; Taylor, Parris and Walsh making way for England, Williamson and Staniforth.
Evrard (GK), Philtjens (Van Belle 66’), Van Kerkhoven (45+3', 55’) Jaques (Van de Velde 76’), De Caigny, Wullaert (c) (Van Gorp), Cayman, Dhont, De Neve (Vanhaevermaet 66’), Biesemans, Deloose (Missipo 76’)
Subs: Odeurs (GK), Lemey, Van Belle, Van Gorp, Onzia, Vanhaevermaet, Vanmechelen, Petry, Minnart, Courtereels, Vande Velde, Missipo
Telford (GK) (38' OG) (Earps 63’), Daly, Stokes, Walsh (Williamson 87’), Houghton (c), Parris (Staniforth 75’), Bronze, Taylor (22') (England 75’), McManus, Mead (26'), Stanway (Williams 56’)
Subs: Earps (GK), Roebuck (GK), Bright, Williams, Duggan, Blundell, Williamson, Moore, England, Mannion, Patten, Staniforth
If the two goals let in by England are anything to go by, the Lionesses' defending can seem to leave a lot to be desired. At the World Cup, it was Neville’s side’s main downfall, and he has to use the time between now and the Euros to iron out any problems. He has called up Aoife Mannion who impressed at Birmingham City, and it may be a good idea for her to feature against Norway.
However, the Lionesses’ midfield was strong, and if Neville does the right thing to sort out the defence, then his team can compliment that extremely well with their prowess going forward.