On her first start at a major tournament, all eyes were on Lauren James to deliver for England after a lacklustre performance in their Women’s World Cup opener.
The 21-year-old has very quickly built a reputation as not only one of the most enjoyable players to watch in women’s football, but also one of the most dangerous and difficult to play against.
Fearless in her approach, she paints the pitch with an armoury of wicked skill and knits it all together with a sublime technique and a confidence that radiates onto her teammates; a frightening trait to possess at such a young age.
In short, she is a hooper. In every sense of the word. Think prime Rob Van Dam in WWE. Mr Monday Night vibes. The all-action entertainer. You watch her effortlessly flick the ball around her markers and your jaw drops. Every single time. She’s one of a kind.
Off the back of a sensational season with Chelsea which ended in a WSL and FA Cup double, it was a touch disheartening to see her reduced to a role from the bench in England’s tournament-opening win against Haiti.
On the flip side, though, Sarina Wiegman treated us to one of the most entertaining cameos one could imagine in bringing her off the bench.
She also made her own bed in doing so. The secret was out. LJ7 had claimed ankles and caused chaos, merely through 30 minutes of nauseating twists, turns and carries.
It was no surprise, then, to see Wiegman reward her up-and-coming starlet with a first tournament start against Denmark. That’s a lot of pressure, but if anyone can soak it up and shoulder it, it’s James.
She has a story to tell and a generation to inspire. And she’s doing it by rolling back the years with performances in the No. 10 role that continually leaves you speechless. The absolute epitome of entertainment – and results – by all means necessary. Doing it her own way.
So, how do you shoulder the hopes and dreams of a nation, carry the intense tactical instructions set out to you and win a game, all in your first tournament start?
Pick up the ball, flick it out of your feet and smash it directly into top bins after six minutes of play, of course.
🚀🚀🚀 Lauren James scorcher alert 🚀🚀🚀pic.twitter.com/7oa0zJ1Omv
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) July 28, 2023
Turn, touch, finish. Have it.
Goals that make you go ‘oooooooft’. Always the number one sign of a screamer.
What’s just as impressive as James’ immense finish, though, is how she makes such intricate work look so effortless.
Nonchalantly drifting into the half-space, killing the pass with the deftest of touches, swivelling on it and sending the ball into the top corner with missile-guided accuracy and power, with the game barely underway and the pressure ramped up to the max.
Aura is an understatement. James has it in abundance.
Football should bring joy, and tournaments are remembered by moments.
The 21-year-old has the abilities to deliver on both of those fronts at the drop of the hat, single-handedly reviving the traditional No. 10 role by combining elite tactical nuance with all of the ‘f*ck it, have a bit of that’ one could possibly muster up.
Coming into the starting XI against one of the quietly strongest sides in the tournament, and dunking on them with a goal of the tournament contender after just six minutes, while people’s Bovrils are still steaming? Yeah, that’s punk rock.
This is James’ world, and we are all merely living in it, hoping she won’t stand us up and snap our ankles in the process.
By Mitch Wilks