England defender Lucy Bronze revealed she made a post-match beeline to console “upset” Lauren James after the forward was shown what could be a World Cup-ending red card in the Lionesses’ nervy last 16 victory over Nigeria.
James will miss at least her side’s quarter-final clash with either Colombia or Jamaica after she was sent off late in Monday night’s knockout match in Brisbane for deliberately stepping on the back of Nigeria defender Michelle Alozie.
Bronze was one of the 10 Lionesses who doggedly defended their way through 30 minutes of extra time in the goalless draw before Bethany England, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood and Chloe Kelly wrapped up the 4-2 win on penalties.
Bronze said: “Obviously she’s going to be disappointed in herself. I went straight off the pitch after the game to make sure she was OK.
“Obviously she was a little bit upset and rightfully so and more than anything she just feels bad for the team. I said to her, ‘We’ve made it through. It’s a team, it’s not just one player.’”
James’ World Cup fate will now be decided by FIFA’s disciplinary committee, who could extend her ban to three matches, which would see her miss the rest of the tournament even if the Lionesses reach a first-ever final.
The first red card of the competition was shown in the group stage to Nigeria’s Deborah Abiodun for her tackle on Canada’s Ashley Lawrence, who will join James at Chelsea after signing a three-year deal with the Blues on 1 July.
Abiodun’s punishment was extended to three matches after she served the first game, so the same outcome for James, who boss Sarina Wiegman said “lost her emotions” in the incident, is a real possibility.
Bronze and Greenwood are the only two Lionesses to have featured in the past three World Cups, while this is the 21-year-old Chelsea forward’s first.
James is the younger sister of Chelsea and England defender Reece James and said before the tournament that she hoped to use the World Cup to carve out an identity separate from her sibling, whose name is regularly mentioned in tandem with hers but rarely, if ever, vice versa.
She had begun to do so in stunning style before she was sent off in the 87th minute of Monday night’s match-up, scoring the only goal in England’s 1-0 group stage victory over Denmark before netting two and picking up three assists in the Lionesses’ 6-1 win over China, in the process becoming the only England player of either gender to contribute to five goals in a single World Cup contest.
Bronze said: “Although LJ is the youngest in the team, she’s had to mature from a young age because she’s been thrown into the spotlight, whether that’s to do with her brother and her family, or that she’s a fantastic player on her own.
“In the last game, everyone put the spotlight on her. She deals with it very, very well. She likes hanging around with the older players, myself, Jordan (Nobbs), Alex Greenwood, we are the three that she comes to asking for advice.
“LJ didn’t start the first game, she didn’t feature at all during the Euros.
“She’s a massively talented player. We all know that and obviously we’re very disappointed to lose a player of her calibre going into the next game. No one’s going to be more disappointed than LJ. It’s important to support her.”