England Women draw Sweden and France in Euro qualifying group of death

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Alessia Russo;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Alessia Russo</a> scores <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a>’s third goal with a backheel in the 4-0 win in the Euro 2022 semi-final. </span><span>Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters</span>

Reigning European champions England have been drawn in the ‘group of death’ with France, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland as they bid to secure qualification for the 2025 Euros.

“It’s a tough draw but it is a really exciting draw,” the England head coach, Sarina Wiegman, said. “Of course, we all went into the draw knowing that Sweden – one of the top countries – would be in pot three because of their Nations League performance in 2023 so with France, Sweden, and Ireland in our group, it will be very competitive. It’s exciting and now we just have to show up and perform. For the fans and for football it is really good because it will be so competitive.”

England were placed in pot two of League A, after failing to secure a place in the first Nations League knockout stage in December, with that tournament, won by Spain, determining the Euro 2025 qualifying groups. That meant Sarina Wiegman’s side were guaranteed to be in a group with either Spain, France, Germany or the Netherlands for the qualifying campaign.

They were handed a match up with Euro 2022 semi-finalists France but then drew the two toughest teams in pots three and four – the Euro 2022 bronze medallists Sweden and the only pot four team to qualify for the World Cup, the Republic of Ireland.

“[Sweden] are a top country with top players in their squad, many of whom we know from the Women’s Super League,” Wiegman added. “The games with the Republic of Ireland will be really competitive. The two countries are obviously close to each other so hopefully lots of fans will have the opportunity to go to watch those games.” England must finish in the top two to earn automatic qualification for the tournament in Switzerland.

Should they finish in third or fourth they will enter the playoffs, playing one of the five group winners or three best-ranked runners-up of League C. Meanwhile, the four group winners and two best-ranked runners-up in League B will play against the two remaining runners-up and four third-place teams in that same league to progress to the second round. Should England be in the playoffs and reach the second-round play-off fixture, they would be seeded, with the seven winners at that stage earning a spot at the Euros.

Scotland will play Serbia, Slovakia and Israel while Northern Ireland face Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Malta and Wales have been drawn against Croatia, Ukraine and Kosovo, all in League B.

Also at stake, is the league position of teams for the second ever Nations League, which will begin after the Euros. If England finish fourth in their qualifying group for the Euros they will be relegated to League B for the next Nations League campaign.

The 2025 Euros have already been hit with controversy with Swiss news outlets reporting that the country’s federal council has cut the budget for the tournament from 15 million Swiss Francs (£13.34m) to four million Swiss Francs. The stadia capacities for the tournament have also been criticised, with three of the eight stadiums below 20,000 and the final set to be hosted in the largest available, Basel’s 38,512 capacity stadium - a world away from the 87,192 fans that watched the 2022 final at Wembley.