Lordanic: We’re running out of words for James’ brilliance (1:38)

Marissa Lordanic and Mark Ogden react to England’s emphatic win over China in their final group stage game. (1:38)

Tom Hamilton, Senior WriterAug 1, 2023, 10:52 AM ET


• Joined ESPN in 2011
• Covered two Olympics, a pair of Rugby World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours
• Previously rugby editor, and became senior writer in 2018

ADELAIDE, Australia – Sarina Wiegman praised Lauren James for her “special” performance against China as the England star scored twice and contributed three assists in the Lionesses’ 6-1 win on Tuesday.

The commanding victory booked England’s spot in the round of 16 against Nigeria on Aug. 7 as the Lionesses progress as group winners with a perfect three from three record.

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Wiegman made three changes from the side that defeated Denmark 1-0, and moved James into a No. 10 role.

The Chelsea star flourished in the middle of the field and scored remarkable goals in either half. The first was a wonderfully judged first-time effort from the edge of the box, while she then volleyed in a second after the break.

And James could’ve had a hat trick but she had a goal disallowed via VAR in the first half with Lucy Bronze judged as being offside.

“[James] feels good, you can tell,” Wiegman told ITV after the game. “She did special things today. Unfortunately that one goal was cancelled. She flows over the pitch.

“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.”

Speaking to ITV, James said she enjoyed the freedom of the No. 10 role: “It’s what dreams are made of. 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.”

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England went into the break three goals to the good thanks to strikes from Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp and James. But it was China who opened the scoring in the second half thanks to a penalty given against Bronze for a handball.

The call needed VAR again, and showed the ball making contact with Bronze’s hand having been hit from close range against the England defender.

“I knew it hit my hand, but it wasn’t deliberate, unless I cut my arm off I don’t know how I get my arm out the way,” Bronze said. “I said to the girls she’s going to give the penalty because it hits my hand but Mary was behind me, if I was trying to hit the ball away I would have hit my hand in the air. I knew it wasn’t deliberate but I guess she just wanted to give me a yellow card for fun.”

And Bronze was also disappointed in the call to disallow James’ other first-half strike after she was judged to be offside.

“Playing for England you tend to know that sometimes decisions don’t go your way and luckily enough for us we finished the game off ourselves,” she said.

“I do think LJ’s [Lauren James’] goal should have stood, she should have had a hat trick, it would have been a huge moment for her, in her first World Cup to score a hat trick for England.”