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Five talking points as England beat Belgium in the Nations League
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Adam Drury
Lauren Hemp scored the winner for England against Belgium
Lauren Hemp scored the winner for England against Belgium

Lauren Hemp's first-half goal was enough for England to see off Belgium 1-0 in the Nations League.

Serena Wiegman's side dominated long spells of the game in front of a sold-out King Power Stadium crowd — and eventually got over the line despite failing to put the game to bed in the second half.

We analyse the key storylines from the Lionesses' vital win.


There was a degree of pressure on the Lionesses to bounce back from last month's loss to the Netherlands but they showed few signs of pressure.

Wiegman's team were at it from the off, forcing Belgium back with penetrative passing and clever movement upfront.

England's run to the World Cup final over the summer was defined by their ability to find a way to win when not at their fluent best.

But this display was a reminder of the attractive football they are capable of and signalled that they have mentally recovered from both that Dutch defeat and the crushing disappointment against Spain in August.

Charles steps up

Niamh Charles impressed for England
Niamh Charles impressed for England

Sarina Wiegman's starting line-up for the Belgium clash was largely familiar — with the selection of Niamh Charles over Rachel Daly on the left side of defence the one slight surprise.

Charles has made a superb start to the Women's Super League campaign with Chelsea, creating three goals in four games, and deserved the chance to make what has become a problem position for the Lionesses her own.

And she showed similar endeavour here, driving into the penalty area and causing problems inside 60 seconds of kick-off. 

It summed up an enterprising night for the full-back, who could well now be first choice.

Kirby ovation

Fran Kirby's appearance from the substitutes' bench produced one of the loudest shouts of the night from the Leicester crowd.

The Chelsea midfielder has not played internationally since October 2022, cruelly missing out on the World Cup as well as the majority of her side's successful 2022-23 campaign with a knee injury.

Her return is not just a heartwarming story but a crucial one for Wiegman.

The 30-year-old showed signs of her mercurial brilliance in the closing stages and will be a major part of this side moving forwards.

Set-piece nerves

Mary Earps made a crucial first-half save
Mary Earps made a crucial first-half save

It was not the story of the evening but Wiegman will still see room for improvement in the Lionesses' defending.

Her side enjoyed so much of the ball in their opponent's half that they looked panicked when forced closer to their goal and had to produce hurried clearances on a few occasions.

That was particularly the case from set-pieces, from which Belgium had most success.

Mary Earps was forced into a good first-half save from Justine Vanhaevermaet and her side continued to look nervous when the ball was in their box.

All to play for

England's victory — along with the Netherlands' 4-0 thumping of Scotland — opens up Group A1 of the Nations League.

The Dutch move top of the pool, ahead of England on goal difference, while Belgium remain in contention two points behind them in third.

With the group winners progressing to the finals in February, and third place set to contest a relegation play-off, there is genuine jeopardy on next week's fourth round of games and December's finale.

Performing like this, though, Wiegman's team will fancy their chances.


England WUEFA Women's Nations League ABelgium W
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