England were dealt a late blow as Viviane Asseyi scored late to secure victory for France, handing Mo Marley a defeat in her first game in charge of the Lionesses, reports TheFA.com.
Goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain made two superb saves to deny the hosts in a friendly of few clear-cut chances, while the Lionesses also went close on several occasions in Valenciennes.
Lucy Bronze headed narrowly wide in the second half, while Jordan Nobbs and Jodie Taylor both went close for the Euro 2017 semi-finalists.
But their hard work was undone in the dying minutes as Asseyi was in the right place at the right time to nod in at the back post.
The last time the two sides met the stakes were significantly higher with Taylor netting the winner to send England through to the Euro 2017 semi-finals.
But France have consistently been one of the best teams in the world, making this a perfect test for England ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.
France started comfortably on home soil, controlling possession and probing England’s defence but the Lionesses, marshalled by skipper Steph Houghton, passed the test.
On the break, England looked dangerous with Karen Carney supplying Taylor with a fine cross mid-way through the first half but the Arsenal forward was crowded out just before getting a shot away.
In a tight game, chances were few and far between but France had the best opportunity to score when Ines Jaurena picked out Valerie Gauvin but Chamberlain made a sublime save to tip her glancing header round the post.
Minutes after the break it was England’s turn to go close, with Bronze’s heading inches past the post from a corner but Chamberlain was called on again to keep out Eugenie Le Sommer’s rasping long-range effort.
Marley made her first changes shortly after, with Manchester City’s Melissa Lawley handed her Lionesses debut.
But France continued to push forwards and they won it late on as Viviane Asseyi headed home from close range.
Houghton almost salvaged a draw with a late free-kick but it sailed just over the bar.
France: 16 Sarah Bouhaddi, 8 Hawa Cissoko, 10 Aminata Diallo, 20 Kadidiatou Diani, 12 Valerie Gauvin, 23 Grace Geyoro, 14 Ines Jaurena, 9 Eugenie Le Sommer (capt), Amel Majri, Wendie Renard, Marion Torrent.
Substitutes: 22 Lea Le Garrec for Jaurema 69, 11 Ouleymata Sarr for Gauvin 69, 18 Viviane Asseyi for Diani 81
Substitutes not used: 1 Elisa Launay, 15 Elise Bussaglia, 5 Estelle Cascarino, 13 Camille Catala, 4 Laura Georges, 6 Amandine Henry, 2 Charlotte Lorgere, 19 Griedge Mbock Bathy
Head coach: Corinne Diacre
England (4-3-3): 1 Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool); 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 6 Millie Bright (Chelsea), 3 Demi Stokes (Manchester City); 8 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 4 Fara Williams (Reading), 10 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal); 7 Karen Carney (Chelsea), 9 Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), 11 Toni Duggan (Barcelona).
Substitutes: 14 Jade Moore (Reading) for Williams 61, 20 Mel Lawley (Manchester City) for Carney 61, 17 Nikita Parris (Manchester City) for Taylor 83, 18 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City) for Duggan 83
Substitutes not used: 12 Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), 13 Carly Telford (Chelsea), 15 Casey Stoney (Liverpool), 16 Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), 19 Jo Potter (Reading), 21 Mary Earps (Reading), 22 Jessica Carter (Birmingham City), 23 Danielle Carter (Arsenal).
Head coach: Mo Marley
Photos: Ben Queenborough for The FA.