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Lauren James could return to play in the World Cup final after her England teammates earned their spot in Sunday’s Sydney showpiece with a 3-1 win over hosts Australia.
James was handed a two-game ban by Fifa after being sent off during the last-16 win over Nigeria for a stamp on defender Michelle Alozie during the knockout game, which England won via a penalty shootout.
The Chelsea star sat out both England’s 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals and the semi-final victory over Australia, where Ella Toone’s first-half piledriver, Lauren Hemp’s second-half finish and Alessia Russo’s late strike knocked out the hosts to set up a final with Spain.
James was given an automatic one-match suspension and feared being ruled out of the tournament altogether, with Fifa typically increasing cases of “violent conduct” to a three-game ban. However, the governing body’s disciplinary committee showed some leniency and James could now return for the World Cup final.
Whether she starts the game depends on whether manager Sarina Wiegman wants to change a winning team. The same starting XI saw off Colombia and Australia to reach the final, and Toone – James’s replacement in the No 10 position in those two games – scored a brilliant goal in the semis.
But James was in fantastic form before her red card, scoring three goals and picking up three assists, and it will be a tough call for Wiegman to make.
James had apologised for the red-card incident, posting in response to a tweet from Alozie: “All my love and respect to you. I am sorry for what happened. Also, for our England fans and my team-mates, playing with and for you is my greatest honour and I promise to learn from my experience.”
James became the fourth England player to be sent off in a World Cup knockout match after David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and current Lionesses captain Millie Bright.
Alozie had earlier tweeted in defence of James. “Abeg, rest,” she wrote. “We are playing on the world’s stage. This game is one of passion, insurmountable emotions, and moments. All respect for Lauren James.”