England are on the brink of last 16 qualification in the Women’s World Cup after producing a much-improved performance to beat Denmark 1-0 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 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, while Denmark face Haiti in their final group match and can still qualify.