BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — One wrong step cost Lauren James any chance of playing in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals, and very easily could have ended England’s progress in the tournament.
The 21-year-old forward was shown a red card for violent conduct late in regulation time on Monday in a tense round-of-16 game against Nigeria, leaving England in a 10-on-11 scenario for more than a half-hour before it ended 0-0 after extra time.
Rachel Daly was one of the successful penalty takers as European champion England won the shootout 4-2 to secure a spot in the next round, and later put an arm around James to console her young teammate.
The extraordinary ejection happened after James lost possession in a contest with defender Michelle Alozie in the 84th minute. After losing her balance and falling on top of Alozie, James pushed herself up and then stepped on the Nigeria defender with the studs of her right boot.
“She’s disappointed. She’s upset. She’s a young player and I think people forget that,” Daly said, responding to questions about James as she left the locker rooms in Brisbane. “People put a lot of pressure on the kid. She’s a young girl, she’s got a lot to learn, and she knows that.
“She’s been excellent for us. Of course (I’ll) put an arm around her, help her through it and she’ll learn from it.”
James went on as a substitute in England’s opening 1-0 win over Haiti and started in the second game against Denmark, scoring a brilliant early goal in another 1-0 win. She scored twice and had three assists in the 6-1 rout of China that earned England top spot in Group D.
Her performances drew attention as one of the emerging stars of the tournament, but she had trouble finding space against Nigeria on Monday night.
Referee Melissa Borjas immediately showed James a yellow card for the stomping incident, but as replays were shown in slow-motion on the stadium screens, it went to a VAR review. The yellow card was upgraded to red. It’ll mean James misses the quarterfinals and possibly more if England keeps advancing.
FIFA said a red card results in an automatic one-match ban, which could be reviewed and possibly extended by a disciplinary committee.
British media compared it with David Beckham’s red card for kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup, an incident that tarnished the England midfielder’s legacy.
England coach Sarina Wiegman said it was an instance James regretted.
“She’s an inexperienced player on this stage (and) in a split second she lost her emotions,” Wiegman said. “That happens sometimes with human beings, in such high intensity, such an emotional game.
“Of course she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She’s the sweetest person I know.”
For her part, Alozie said she was confused about what happened until she saw the replay.
“I’m fine,” she said, laughing. “My butt is fine from her stepping on it, but I mean everyone was in a high pressure situation.”
“I haven’t seen her” since the red card, Alozie added, “but there’s no hard feelings. It’s just a game.”
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup
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