Lauren James Scores Twice as England Routs China 6-1 at the Women’s World Cup

AP Photo/James Elsby
England’s Lauren James, right, heads the ball during the Women’s World Cup Group D soccer match between China and England in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

SYDNEY (AP) — Only VAR prevented England’s Lauren James from scoring a hat trick against China at the Women’s World Cup.

China certainly didn’t know how to stop the inspirational forward as she scored two goals and provided three assists in a 6-1 rout on Tuesday at Adelaide, South Australia.

“She did special things today. … she flows over the pitch,” England coach Sarina Wiegman said.

James’ impressive performance should be a warning for future opponents of the threat she poses at this World Cup, with England entering the knockout stage with three straight wins.

The Chelsea forward makes it seem so easy. James scored with her right and and with her left. One goal was a powerfully controlled strike from the edge of the area and the other was a clinical volley from a tight angle.

“It’s what dreams are made of,” James said. “I felt free. Whether I’m on the wing or in the middle, I’m happy to be playing and contributing to goals.”

James thought she had another memorable goal after expertly firing into the corner from distance in first-half stoppage time. But the effort was disallowed because her teammate Lucy Bronze had been in an offside position during the build up.

“It was frustrating, but those things happen,” James said. “I’m just looking forward to the next one.”

That could mean bad news for Nigeria, which is England’s next opponent in the round of 16 in Brisbane on Monday.

James appears almost unstoppable, whether it be scoring goals or created chances for others.

After scoring six minutes into her first start at the tournament against Denmark, she produced an even better performance against China as England finished atop Group D with three straight wins.

As well as her two goals, she provided assists for Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp and substitute Chloe Kelly.

Rachel Daly got the European champion’s other goal at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium, and China’s Wang Shuang pulled one back from the penalty spot.

In a performance of rare brilliance, there were so many stand out moments for James. But the control and precision of her left-foot volley in the 65th minute, taken with her instep, was special.

“I’ve known LJ for a long time, played with her at Manchester United, so I’ve known the talent she had,” England midfielder Katie Zelem said. “So there is no surprise she is playing this well at the tournament.”

England equaled its biggest-ever World Cup win, matching the margin against Argentina in 2007.

The Lionesses also set a World Cup record by scoring in 16 consecutive games at the tournament.

China’s worst-ever loss at the tournament means it failed to advance from the group stage for the first time at a Women’s World Cup.

Denmark finished second to England in the group, advancing after a 2-0 win over Haiti.

England just had to avoid defeat to be guaranteed a place in the knockout stage after back-to-back wins against Haiti and Denmark.

Even with a 100% winning start there had still been questions over England’s performances, while a knee injury for Keira Walsh raised concerns about how coach Wiegman would replace one of her key players.

While the loss of Walsh is a setback for England, the emergence of James has made her one of the stars so far in the tournament.

She was the provider as Russo got England off to a flying start in the fourth minute. With her first goal of the tournament, Russo controlled James’ header and fired low past goalkeeper Zhu Yu.

Hemp scored England’s second in the 26th, with James the provider again after swift counterattack.

James struck from the edge of the box in the 41st and, after Wang scored from the spot in the 57th, she provided the moment of match with a volley into the top corner.

James was the provider again with a perfectly-weighted pass beyond China’s defense for Kelly to score in the 77th. Daley rounded off the scoring in the 84th.

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