England close in on knockouts after Denmark win

Updated: Jul 28, 2023, 08:33 am

A superb early strike from Lauren James proved enough to secure England a 1-0 victory over Group D opponents Denmark on Friday and help Sarina Wiegman’s side close in on the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup.

The match was barely in full flow at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney before James picked the ball up from the edge of the opposing box inside six minutes and curled an effort past goalkeeper Lene Christensen.

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“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.

James’ goal in front of a crowd of 40,439 also ended her side’s scoring drought from open play after they went four games without one. The Chelsea forward, 22, made her England senior debut in September last year.

England had chances to increase their lead, including Alessia Russo’s fierce shot in the 71st minute that sailed just wide.

Bayern Munich forward Pernille Harder almost pulled one back for Denmark in the dying minutes, clanging a header off the post.

The result means England remain flawless with six points after two matches at this summer’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand following a 1-0 opening match victory against Haiti last Saturday.

“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’s victory is bittersweet, though, as they were dealt an injury blow with midfielder Keira Walsh taken off on a stretcher on 38 minutes.

Lauren James scored with a superb curled effort from outside the box just six minutes in.

Lauren James scored with a superb curled effort from outside the box just six minutes in.

Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

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.”

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.