Lauren James ‘lost her emotions’ for red card against Nigeria – Sarina Wiegman

By Sports Desk August 07, 2023

England boss Sarina Wiegman admitted “sweetest person” Lauren James “lost her emotions” as she received a red card that could see the 21-year-old miss the remainder of the World Cup.

The Lionesses advanced to the quarter-finals after surviving James’ dismissal late in the second half to beat Nigeria on penalties, with Euro 2022 hero Chloe Kelly scoring the winning spot-kick in a 4-2 shoot-out success.

James’ brace and two assists earned her player-of-the-match honours against China, but this time she was sent off after it was ruled she had deliberately stepped on the back of Nigeria defender Michelle Alozie with three minutes of normal time remaining of a game that ended goalless after 120 minutes.

Wiegman, who had not watched the incident back, said: “She’s an inexperienced player on this stage and has done really well, and I think in a split second she just lost her emotions.

“And of course she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She’s the sweetest person I know, and things happen like that and you can’t change it anymore, so it’s a huge lesson for her to learn, but of course it’s not something that she really did on purpose.”

Wiegman said she personally delivered a similar speech to James, adding: “Of course she apologised and she felt really, really bad.”

James became the fourth England player to be sent off in a World Cup knockout match after David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and current England captain Millie Bright, who was shown a second yellow against the United States in the 2019 semi-finals.

Chelsea forward James, who made her World Cup debut against Haiti, faces at minimum a one-match ban, but that could be extended by FIFA’s disciplinary committee to three which would see her miss the rest of the tournament even if the Lionesses reach the final.

England’s spirits were high to begin Monday night’s contest in Brisbane, where midfielder Keira Walsh made a remarkable return from what many thought was a tournament-ending knee injury 10 days ago against Denmark.

Walsh played 120 minutes against Nigeria before being substituted but Wiegman said: “She was cramping a little bit, so we had to take her off, but she’s OK.”

Wiegman benefitted from a healthy side en route to England’s Euro 2022 triumph, but after dealing with multiple injury problems in the run-up to the tournament and coping without key presence Walsh and now breakout talent James, she admitted: “I have never experienced so many problems, but of course it’s my job to think of things that can happen in a game or in a tournament or ahead of the tournament.

“So you try to turn every stone, and then try to already think of a solution if things happen, and today we got totally tested on those turned stones.”

Nigeria had impressed throughout the group stage and were no different against England, twice hitting the crossbar and frustrating the Lionesses by employing a higher press for this knockout encounter.

But England held on in James’ absence to ensure their destiny would be decided by spot-kicks, with Bethany England, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood and Kelly all scoring after Georgia Stanway fired the first wide.

“I’m really proud of the team,” added Wiegman. “We’ve had many setbacks. I think this (James red card) was a big one too.

“We had to reorganise and do something else on the pitch and we didn’t need any minute to do so.

“And of course players got really, really tired, but we really stuck together and showed a lot of resilience.”

Nigeria head coach Randy Waldrum, whose contract with his federation is soon set to expire, said: “They just played their heart out. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I take away that we can be and probably should be one of the top teams in the world.

“I certainly hope that FIFA ranking goes from 40 to a better number than that, but more importantly I think we’ve shown that we’re capable of playing with anybody.

“I think we gave some teams that are still alive in this tournament at least a blueprint of how to approach (England).”

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