Sarina Wiegman’s England thrashed China as Lauren James became the Lionesses’ tormentor in chief, scoring twice and setting up three more in a 6-1 win that sealed top spot in Group D

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World Cup diary: England thrash China to advance

Sarina Wiegman denied her switch of formation to a back three was down to Keira Walsh’s absence.

England thrashed China 6-1 to secure a place in the last 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with Lauren James again grabbing the spotlight, with two superb strikes and three assists. But the Lionesses had to do so without Walsh who picked up a knee injury in the win over Denmark.

For the first time as England manager in a major tournament, Wiegman decided to completely change England’s tactical shape, moving to a 3-4-1-2. This saw James deployed as a No.10, Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly at wing-back with Katie Zelem in midfield instead of Laura Coombs.

The Lionesses responded with an emphatic win that ensures that top Group D and will meet Nigeria in the last 16 on Monday. But Wiegman insisted after the win that her side would always look at alternative systems depending on the game and that Walsh was not the solo factor in the change.

“No (when asked if the tactical switch was due to Walsh’s injury) we always try to use qualities of the squad,” she said. “Or as optimally as possible. We have played with a three at the back and then did things a little differently.

“Everyone really believed in the formation straight away and you could see that on the pitch.

“We got a higher press. The team showed we are really adaptable and we knew we could press the centre backs of China. This team have showed they are adaptable before and that we can change shape very easily.

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“We knew we could press the centre-backs of China, but it is always about how we use our qualities the most.”

So far in the tournament England struggled to kill off the game when on top. Against both Haiti and Denmark, with both sides having big opportunities near the end.

But there was no danger of a nervy finish this evening, and once James slammed home her second of the evening, the Lionesses turned on the style. Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly also netted as England recorded their biggest win at a major tournament since thrashing Norway 8-0 in the Euros group stage.

England celebrate with fans post-match after beating China 6-1 at Hindmarsh Stadium England celebrate after their 6-1 win over China

It will give both the team and supporters growing confidence, particularly considering other tournament favourites such as Germany, USA and Spain have all struggled in the early stages. And England’s Dutch coach was delighted to see an improvement from her team on the ball.

“Yeah I think we are growing into the tournament,” she added. Tonight we had a great performance. We played really well in the first part against Denmark too. The second half we struggled with keeping possession and also preventing counter-attacks.

“Today we hardly had moments like that. We played well and also China didn’t press all the time. They stayed in their shape and weren’t able to get forward and press us.”

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