England Women drew 0-0 with France in Boca Raton to finish third in the inaugural SheBelieves Cup.
After narrow defeats to World Cup-winners USA and European champions Germany in the opening two matches, Mark Sampson’s side were on the back foot for most of the first half, mainly owing to the fact they were playing into a strong wind.
Karen Bardsley made two good saves before Claire Lavogez smashed a bicycle kick against the crossbar, while Demi Stokes came closest to scoring for England when released by Jill Scott.
England 0-0 France
The SheBelieves Cup
Wednesday 9 March
Florida Atlantic University Stadium
The Lionesses improved markedly after the break and had chances to win the game through Katie Chapman, Karen Carney and Jordan Nobbs.
Neither side could find the elusive winning goal, but there was a moment to remember for England striker Eniola Aluko who replaced Toni Duggan in the second half to become just the tenth player to earn 100 caps for the Lionesses.
In a cagey opening between these two familiar opponents, the first clear chance fell to France forward Elodie Thomis.
The Lyon speedster latched on to Lavogez’s ball over the top but could only slice an angled shot wide of Bardsley’s left-hand upright.
The same two players combined again moments later when Lavogez, a star of the 2014 FIFA Women’s U20s World Cup, sprayed a long diagonal ball from right to left which dropped into Thomis’s path. The forward tried another angled drive which was straight at Bardsley.
The next French attacker to have a sight at goal was Marie-Laure Delie, who had beaten England’s offside trap, but Bardsley saved well at her near post.
Wind assisted, Philippe Bergeroo’s side enjoyed more of the ball in the first half and they were almost rewarded with a spectacular opening goal.
The Lionesses failed to clear their lines following a France corner and the ball pinged around in the box until Lavogez tried an audacious bicycle kick which crashed off the bar.
With the French dominating possession, England’s only clear chance of the opening 45 minutes, and arguably their best chance of the game, came on the counter attack.
Go behind the scenes at the SheBelieves Cup
With half-time approaching, Jill Scott played in Manchester City club-mate Stokes down the left, but the 24-year-old’s low, angled shot was well saved by Meline Gerard.
It was a different England side after the break, with Sampson’s charges controlling proceedings for long spells and creating chances.
Chapman robbed Kheira Hamraoui of possession shortly after the restart and hit an effort just wide from the edge of the area – before her Chelsea team-mate Aluko took centre stage.
The 29-year-old came off the bench on 56 minutes to make her 100th England appearance, and skipper Steph Houghton handed Aluko the armband to mark the occasion.
Sampson called two more star names from the bench in the shape of Lucy Bronze, for Alex Scott, and Carney, for Stokes – and Carney came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock with a 25-yarder.
Nobbs, who impressed against USA in the opening match of the tournament, came even closer with an effort with the outside of her right foot that curled just inches past the angle of post and bar.
The last chance of note went to France substitute Eugenie Le Sommer, England’s tormentor in Canada last year, but the game ended all-square.
A goalless draw against a talented France side, ranked third in the world, provides England with a satisfying end to a beneficial friendly tournament.
They played well against USA and kept the World Cup-winners at bay for 72 minutes before going ahead against European champions Germany in the second match – only to be undone by an own goal and a debatable penalty.
And their stoic defending allied with an improved second-half performance against France will give them confidence ahead of next month’s Euro qualifier against Belgium at Rotherham United (on Friday 8 April, 7.55pm KO).
Tickets for the game are on sale now priced £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. A family ticket (two adults and two children) is available at £10 and group booking discounts apply.
Tickets can be bought via TheFA.com/Tickets, by calling 08444 140 754 or in person at the Rotherham United ticket office.
England (4-4-2): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 12 Alex Scott (Arsenal), 5 Steph Houghton (C; Manchester City), 15 Casey Stoney (Arsenal), 14 Claire Rafferty (Chelsea); 4 Fara Williams (Arsenal), 7 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 17 Katie Chapman (Chelsea), 11 Demi Stokes (Manchester City); 8 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 19 Toni Duggan (Manchester City).
Substitutes: 20 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea) for Duggan 56, 2 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City) for A Scott 69, 10 Karen Carney (Chelsea) for Stokes 71.
Substitutes not used: 3 Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), 16 Laura Bassett (Notts County), 18 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), 22 Fran Kirby (Chelsea), 23 Gemma Davison (Chelsea).
Head coach: Mark Sampson
France: 21 Meline Gerard, 4 Laura Georges, 5 Sabrina Delannoy (C), 8 Jessica Houra D’Hommeaux, 10 Camille Abily, 11 Claire Lavogez, 12 Elodie Thomis, 14 Louisa Necib, 18 Marie-Laure Delie, 22 Amel Majri, 23 Kheira Hamraoui.
Substitutes: 19 Griedge Mbock Bathy for Georges 54, 9 Eugenie Le Sommer for Necib 59, 15 Elise Bussaglia for Abily 77, 6 Viviane Asseyi for Lavogez 86.
Substitutes not used: 1 Laetitia Philippe, 2 Kelly Gadea, 3 Marion Torrent, 7 Charlotte Bilbault, 13 Marie-Charlotte Leger, 16 Sarah Bouhaddi, 17 Aurelie Kaci, 20 Kadidiatou Diani.
Head coach: Philippe Bergeroo
Referee: Gillian Martindale (Barbados)