James stars as England close in on last 16 with win

SYDNEY (Agencies): England are on the brink of last-16 qualification in the Women’s World Cup after a much-improved performance saw off Denmark – though they lost key midfielder Keira Walsh to a worrying injury.
Lauren James announced herself on the global stage with a superb strike from the edge of the box just six minutes into her first World Cup start and it proved to be the decider in Sydney.
However, a serious-looking injury to Barcelona midfielder Walsh dampened what was a positive, attacking performance from the Lionesses after a scrappy 1-0 win over Haiti in their opening group match.
Walsh went down under little contact and immediately gestured to the dugout, appearing to say: “I’ve done my knee.” Visibly in pain, she was taken off on a stretcher after 38 minutes.
The sight of an injured Walsh – arguably England’s most crucial player – flattened the atmosphere in a Sydney Football Stadium dominated by Lionesses supporters. Denmark capitalised on the change of mood, creating a chance for ex-Chelsea striker Pernille Harder which she scuffed wide, though England’s half-time lead was deserved.
James continued to impress throughout, providing the creativity and unpredictability that has excited fans in the Women’s Super League, and showing she is more than deserving of a regular starting spot with England.
She had chances in the first half either side of a header from Lucy Bronze which went over the bar, though Denmark pounced on defensive errors with Rikke Madsen and Janni Thomsen coming close.
Denmark continued to search for an equaliser and almost found one when substitute Amalie Vangsgaard – who scored a 90th-minute winner against China – headed a cross against the right post.
But on the whole they did not test goalkeeper Mary Earps enough, while England had further chances through striker Alessia Russo and substitute Bethany England.
“It’s all about winning games of course. We also want to play well. But we never take anything for granted,” said England manager Sarina Wiegman.
“We have to work really hard every time we play any game. We are really happy with the 1-0 in the end and that’s what counts.”
England cannot confirm a place in the last 16 until they face China – who beat Haiti 1-0 – in their final Group D match on Tuesday, while Denmark face Haiti and can also still qualify.
England moving through the gears
There were concerns after England’s opening victory over Haiti, a side ranked 49 places lower than the Lionesses, as they lacked ruthlessness and had not scored a goal from open play in 337 minutes.
So when Wiegman’s team selection included exciting talent James, there was an expectation for England to attack and create chances. They did that from the first minute – with James at the centre of it as she combined nicely with Ella Toone as well as Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly, who returned to the left-back role she held during Euro 2022. It paid off as the familiar sound of England’s celebrating fans singing “Sweet Caroline” at full-time rang around the stadium.