SYDNEY-Lauren James scored a wonder strike in her first Women’s World Cup start to lead England to a 1-0 Group D victory over Denmark on Friday, all but guaranteeing the European champions a spot in the knockout stage.
Coach Sarina Wiegman made two bold changes to Friday’s squad, moving the versatile Rachel Daly back to defence and inserting James into the starting lineup - and the two teamed up to score in the sixth minute at Sydney Football Stadium. “It was a dream, it was something I’ve been thinking about, but most importantly, just happy to help the team win,” James told the BBC.
“I’m calm all around, on and off the pitch, and I just try to bring that to my game as well. Today I showed that. Daly knocked the ball to James, who sped past one defender then curled in a rocket from 22 yards out that goalkeeper Lene Christensen had little chance of stopping.
England’s World Cup hopes suffered a major blow, however, towards the end of the first half when Keira Walsh crumpled to the pitch with what looked like a serious knee injury. The Barcelona midfielder signalled to staff with a hand slash to the throat that she was done.
James’ goal in front of a pro-England crowd of 40,439 also ended her side’s scoring drought from open play after they went four games without one. The 22-year-old Chelsea forward, whose older brother Reece also plays for the club, made her England senior debut in September last year.
“We really, really had to fight for the win, and that’s what we did,” Wiegman told the BBC. “For me it doesn’t matter who scores the goals. They played well, they started well and they got a very useful goal. It’s very nice.”
England had chances to increase their lead, including Alessia Russo’s fierce shot in the 71st minute that sailed just wide. But Denmark, ranked 13th, were a threat throughout the second half and goalkeeper Mary Earps had to stretch to tip a shot from Katrine Veje over the bar. Bayern Munich forward Pernille Harder almost pulled one back for the Danes in the dying minutes, but her header came back off the post.
Walsh will be tough to replace in an England side already missing captain Leah Williamson, Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead and Fran Kirby to serious knee injuries. “It did look serious, if you can’t walk off the pitch it looks serious,” Wiegman said of the injury to Walsh, who left the stadium on crutches. “But we just finished the game.”
The fourth-ranked Lionesses, who defeated Haiti 1-0 in their opener, play China on Aug. 1 in their final group game. Denmark, who beat China 1-0 to kick off their campaign, play Haiti the same day.
Meanwhile, Wang Shuang kept China’s Women’s World Cup campaign alive by converting a penalty in Friday’s 1-0 win over Haiti at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide, with the Asian side showing great resolve to claim victory despite Zhang Rui’s red card. The Steel Roses face England on Tuesday and have three points from two games in Group D.
Argentina and South Africa settled for an exciting 2-2 draw in their Women’s World Cup Group G clash at Dunedin Stadium on Friday that kept both teams alive in the tournament but dented their hopes of progressing.