England’s defeat to France provided some great answers – interim boss Hege Riise

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Phil Medlicott, PA
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England Women interim boss Hege Riise says Friday’s loss to France provided some “great answers” in terms of where the team is at.

The Lionesses were beaten 3-1 by Les Bleues in the friendly in Caen, where the hosts went two goals up via Sandy Baltimore’s first-half strike and a Viviane Asseyi penalty just after the hour mark.

England reduced the deficit through Fran Kirby’s 79th-minute spot-kick and Keira Walsh then hit the post before Marie-Antoinette Katoto scored France’s third.

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It was England’s second match under Riise, following the 6-0 win over Northern Ireland in February.

The Norwegian next oversees them playing Canada at Stoke’s bet365 Stadium on Tuesday, then in May names a Great Britain squad for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Riise, speaking to the media for the first time since the France match, told a press conference on Monday: “I think this game was a great opportunity for us looking further ahead.

“Of course we always step on the field to win, but that game gave us some good answers (regarding) what we need to improve and what has improved.

“We want to win, but sometimes in order to go further and develop you need some games where we just have a challenge and see how we deal with it.”

Hege Riise on the touchline
Hege Riise’s Lionesses were beaten 3-1 by France last time out (FA Handout/PA)

The result was an eighth defeat for England in their last 13 games.

When asked what she thought the problem was in terms of England’s record over the last couple of years, Riise said: “It’s hard to say for me now. I think we are on a good road going forward.

“This was the first tier-one opposition that we faced (under her), and this game gave us some great answers, attacking-wise but also defending.”

She added: “You take parts of the France game that were excellent – we just need to finish our chances, and that’s the detail. It’s not easy, but that’s the detail we are looking for going forward.

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“Now we review the France game and see leading into Canada how we can improve in the areas that we lacked in the last game.”

England, who are currently without injured skipper Steph Houghton, also had her fellow defenders Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes not involved in the France game due to minor injuries.

Riise said a decision about Bronze and the Canada match would be made after a training session on Monday, and that she was hopeful of Stokes featuring in the contest.

The Norwegian also said the plan was for “almost every” player in the squad to get game time across the double-header of friendlies.

Riise has the interim head coach role, and GB job for the Olympics, after Phil Neville stepped down as Lionesses boss in January.

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It is ahead of Sarina Wiegman taking permanent charge of England in September, less than a year out from the team being hosts of the European Championship.

Riise was asked if she had felt pressure since taking on her role with the Football Association, and she said: “Yes and no. There will always be a pressure leading England, a lot of expectation.

“But I also feel like I’m confident that we as a team can turn this around, and hopefully – working on the culture and structure – slowly put us in a place that we believe that we can win.

“I’m more encouraged by that than to fail or be successful myself. I feel like I am surrounded by great staff, the FA and the players. I feel of course pressure but also I enjoy it a lot.”