England 1-0 Denmark: Lauren James stars as England beat Denmark

England are on the brink of last 16 qualification in the Women’s World Cup after producing a much-improved performance to beat 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 struggling 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 this season, and 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 over China – headed a cross against the 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.

England will be through to the last 16 if China fail to beat Haiti in the other Group D match, kicking off at 12:00 BST, while Denmark face Haiti in their final group match and can still qualify.

England moving through the gears

There were concerns after England’s opening victory over Haiti, a side ranked 49 places lower in the world, as they lacked ruthlessness and had not scored a goal from open play in 337 minutes.

So when Sarina 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.

But the Lionesses still spurned opportunities to extend their lead and had a nervous spell in the first half when Denmark took advantage of a misplaced pass by Daly at the back and loose possession in midfield.

England’s lead at half-time was still fair reward, though the players headed down the tunnel with their heads bowed having witnessed Walsh’s injury not long before.

The second half continued in much the same way as the first – England controlling play, while Denmark maintained a threat and Lars Sondergaard’s side almost had a breakthrough when Vangsgaard’s header bounced dangerously off the post.

But on the whole, this was a far more composed performance than the one England produced in Brisbane just six days ago.

Walsh’s injury casts fresh doubts

The build-up to England’s World Cup campaign was dominated by the absences of injured trio Leah Williamson, who captained the Lionesses at Euro 2022, Chelsea playmaker Fran Kirby and Ballon d’Or runner-up Beth Mead.

Already facing a challenge to recreate the momentum they carried on home soil at Euro 2022, this fresh injury to Walsh will be a devastating blow if it proves to be a significant one.

She was the Player of the Match in the Euro 2022 final and earned a world-record transfer move from Manchester City to Barcelona, having proven her worth during the tournament.

England are not short of squad experience in midfield with Jordan Nobbs having picked up 71 caps since making her debut in 2013, but Walsh’s most direct replacement Laura Coombs has played just six times since 2015 – including her substitute display against Denmark.

The Lionesses’ challenge of fighting off the likes of European giants Germany and back-to-back world champions the USA to win this tournament has likely been made even harder.



Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Earps
  • 2Bronze
  • 6Bright
  • 5Greenwood
  • 9Daly
  • 8Stanway
  • 4WalshSubstituted forCoombsat 38′minutes
  • 10TooneSubstituted forHempat 76′minutes
  • 18Kelly
  • 23RussoSubstituted forEnglandat 76′minutes
  • 7James


  • 3Charles
  • 11Hemp
  • 12Nobbs
  • 13Hampton
  • 14Wubben-Moy
  • 15Morgan
  • 16Carter
  • 17Coombs
  • 19England
  • 20Zelem
  • 21Roebuck
  • 22Robinson


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Christensen
  • 4Sevecke
  • 3BallisagerSubstituted forThøgersenat 77′minutes
  • 5Boye
  • 11Veje
  • 2HasboSubstituted forVangsgaardat 71′minutes
  • 6HolmgaardSubstituted forTroelsgaardat 88′minutes
  • 19Thomsen
  • 12Kühl
  • 17MadsenSubstituted forSørensenat 76′minutes
  • 10Harder


  • 7Troelsgaard
  • 8Snerle
  • 9Vangsgaard
  • 13Thrige
  • 14Sørensen
  • 15Thøgersen
  • 16Larsen
  • 18Gevitz
  • 20Bruun
  • 21Gejl
  • 22Bay
  • 23Svava

Tess Olofsson


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Match ends, England 1, Denmark 0.

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