It was a night to remember for Lauren James on Thursday as she scored her first England goal in the Lionesses’ Arnold Clark opener against South Korea. Sarina Wiegman’s side cruised to a 4-0 victory to get their title defence off to a perfect start and at the centre of the strong performance was the Chelsea forward, James.
Not only did the attacker score her first senior goal at international level in Milton Keynes, she also provided an assist. Her exquisite dribbling saw her draw a foul inside the penalty area which led to Georgia Stanway converting from the spot to get the Lionesses up and running. Her emphatic performance saw her crowned Player of the Match and as she starts to thrive for her country like she is at her club, her claim for a starting place at the World Cup gets bigger - with the European champions gunning for world champions status.
The 21-year-old has been one of the most exciting talents in English football in recent years and she has had to be patient for her Lionesses opportunity as she has had to deal with several injury setbacks. It was only last September when Sarina Wiegman handed the youngster her debut and she only has six caps to her name so far, but now she is grasping this chance with both hands.
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Her stunning performance came as no surprise because she has been on fire this campaign with Chelsea, having scored seven goals and provided three assists in all competitions. James has rightly been getting a lot of plaudits this campaign because she is starting to get a solid run of games under her belt to really express her footballing capabilities, something which is exciting England fans ahead of the World Cup.
Following the victory over South Korea, England defender Lucy Bronze was full of praise for James in her post-match press conference, saying: “We’ve been waiting for this superstar, and this is just the beginning.” England captain Leah Williamson also described her as a “cheat code.”
Of course we know that football runs in her family. Her brother Reece has been a standout star for the Blues in recent years, and also been given the experience of playing for his country. While Lauren is waiting for her first taste of representing England in an international tournament, her brother has already experienced that feeling when he was deployed at right-back against Scotland at Euro 2020.
He suffered heartbreak when he missed out on the England squad at the World Cup last year, but he, like his sister, is expected to be a mainstay in the international squad for years to come. Both of their earliest education in football came alongside one another. They were both born with football in their blood, courtesy of their father Nigel, an ex-professional footballer turned youth coach. He was the one who drove the pair to go the extra mile to become the best with hours upon hours of extra training drills in their back garden.
Both siblings have been brought up to be the best version of themselves on and off the pitch and all those extra hours they spent kicking a ball around in their garden has certainly paid off. Reece is a Champions League winner and Lauren is fastly becoming one of England’s most important players, while establishing herself as one of the most bedazzling players in the world.
There is such a grace to James’ game. When she receives the ball there is nothing but confidence. If you see her backed into a corner you believe that she will find a way to dribble herself out of it. She is still a young player whose attributes are still relatively raw. Her evolution both at club and international level under Emma Hayes and Wiegman respectively, are only going to transform her into an even greater player.
James offers that wow factor, whenever she is on the ball she has people on the edge of their seats. Her teammates know it, her coaches know it and the fans definitely know it. This year is proving to be a great one for her and her career and if she can build on this momentum it may just get even better, for her and her nation.