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‘I felt free’: Lauren James explains starring role to inspire England at World Cup

Alessia Russo , Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly were also on the scoresheet as England thrashed China 6-1

Ben Fleming
Tuesday 01 August 2023 16:29 BST
Rachel Daly pays tribute to father with celebration after scoring first World Cup goal

Lauren James was in dreamland after her two superb finishes helped a resurgent England reach the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup with a dominant 6-1 victory against China.

Appearing at her first major tournament for England, James netted last match against Denmark and found England’s third goal of the match with a wonderful curling effort from a set-piece just before half-time.

The Chelsea forward was denied another shortly after when her edge-of-the-box finish was controversially ruled out for offside but found the back of the net once again after the break when her perfectly-timed volley saw England take a four-goal lead.

“It’s what dreams are made of,” she said to ITV Sport when reflecting on the match. “[I’m] happy for the team; everyone is buzzing. We are looking forward to the next round

“I felt free. Whether I’m on the wing or in the middle, I’m happy to be playing and contributing to goals.

“It was frustrating [to have one ruled out] but those things happen. I’m just looking forward to the next one. Each game, I’m looking to get better and there are many more years of improvement. I just have to stay focused.”

Having only made her debut for the Lionesses in a World Cup qualifier last September, James now appears to have made herself indispensable to this England starting lineup, with her brace today making the 21-year-old England’s top goalscorer at the tournament with three goals.

Alongside her two goals, James also contributed two assists, making the youngest player on record (2011 onwards) to be directly involved in 4+ goals in a single Women’s World Cup match.

“She feels good, you can tell,” England boss Sarina Wiegman said to ITV. “She did special things today, she flows over the pitch.”

Following the potentially tournament-ending injury to midfield lynchpin Keira Walsh against Denmark, Wiegman made numerous changes for today’s final group game, including a change of formation from the usual 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2.

Those changes took just four minutes to take effect as Alessio Russo fired home her first World Cup goal after just four minutes. Striker partner Lauren Hemp doubled the lead with a well-taken finish before James’ brace - sandwiched between China’s goal from the penalty spot - moved England 4-1 ahead.

Rachel Daly added England’s sixth goal (The FA via Getty Images)

Chloe Kelly and last season’s Women’s Super League top goalscorer, Rachel Daly, added late goals as England equalled their best result at a women’s World Cup.

“I said before the game we had to do things a little different than we did before,” Wiegman added. “We did really well it shows how adaptive we are on the pitch.

“We want to use the qualities we have now and today it worked really well. We expected China to press high because they had to win to go through. But they just stayed in shape. They didn’t expect us to play this way and they didn’t find a solution.”

Having topped the group, England advance to the round of 16 where they will face Nigeria.

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