Reason for England star Lauren James getting hit with a World Cup ban
World Cup diary: Countdown on to England's first women's final
Not since 1966 has England braced itself for a World Cup final, but thanks to the Lionesses that is exactly what will unfold on television sets across the country on Sunday morning when the biggest match in the history of the English women’s game gets underway in Sydney, Australia.
The reigning European Champions are looking to build on their Wembley success of last year by going one better and winning the biggest prize of them all.
Team coach Sarina Wiegman might be Dutch by birth, but she is already a national hero on these shores and will write her name into English football immortality should the Lionesses overcome Spain in Sunday’s final.
But before thoughts can turn to the prospect of lifting that gleaming trophy, a team must be selected and here lies a major issue. What do you do about Lauren James?
Chelsea’s 21-year-old midfielder is one of England’s most talented and important players, but she did not play a second of the quarter-final and semi-final victories against Colombia and Australia.
That’s because James was shown a red card against Nigeria in their tight Round-of-16 match after stamping on her opponent Michelle Alozie whilst she was on the ground.
The midfielder, who had been England’s stand-out performer in the group stages, scoring three goals and providing three assists, was initially shown a yellow card by the referee in the 86th minute of the match, but after a VAR review was recommended, her punishment was upgraded to a red card, ruling her out for a least one match.
Violent conduct carries a three-match suspension in the Premier League, so when FIFA confirmed that she would receive a two-match suspension in the wake of the incident, she could count herself fortunate not to have seen her involvement end there and then.
But thanks to her teammates, James lives to fight another day at this tournament and could still have a huge say in the destination of the trophy should she be selected.
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Having now served her two-match suspension the Chelsea star is available to start against Spain but her return to the starting XI can not be considered a formality.
James was replaced in the side by Ella Troone and the 23-year-old has not passed up her opportunity. Helping to link play with the team’s forwards, the Manchester United midfielder also weighed in with a goal of her own against Australia in the semi-final, more than justifying her inclusion.
Ultimately the decision on who to start will lie with Wiegman and with so much at stake, it could be one of the most crucial selection choices she ever makes in her career.
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