Soccer

‘Shy’ Lauren James learning to deal with World Cup spotlight – Lucy Bronze

England veteran Lucy Bronze, left, has found a kindred spirit in Lauren James (Bradley Collyer/PA)
England veteran Lucy Bronze, left, has found a kindred spirit in Lauren James (Bradley Collyer/PA) England veteran Lucy Bronze, left, has found a kindred spirit in Lauren James (Bradley Collyer/PA)

England defender Lucy Bronze is helping the “shy” and “misinterpreted” Lauren James navigate the increasingly bright spotlight shining on the 21-year-old after her historic turn at the World Cup.

The Chelsea forward became the first England player to be involved in five or more goals in a match at either a men’s or women’s World Cup when she scored twice and added three assists in the Lionesses’ 6-1 win over China on Tuesday.

Bronze, one of just two England players to have featured in the last three World Cups, has found a kindred spirit in inquisitive debutant James who is a decade her junior.

She said: “When she came into her first camp she was already asking me a lot of questions about things that other players didn’t ask. I think we have formed a bond, we are in similar situations.

“I was thrust into the limelight in a different way but I can help give her advice. I can help keep her feet on the ground but she is good at that anyway. She’s someone like myself who gets misinterpreted a little bit by other players or the media because she hasn’t always got a smile on her face.

“She is quite shy like I used to be. She reminds me so much of myself when I was younger. She is shy but she believes in herself a lot. She’s a lovely girl and wants the team to do well more than anything.”

James perhaps is the epitome of a player who wants her football to do the talking. Gracious but succinct, her answers to the two questions allowed by organisers in the post-match press conference lasted all of a combined 57 words.

Writing in the Times, ex-Manchester United manager Casey Stoney, who signed James as a 16-year-old, also remembered her as someone who “never enjoyed the spotlight” with a “laid-back personality” that sometimes worked against her when others mistakenly believed that meant the Londoner did not “want it” enough.

Bronze knows just what it is like to make a headline-grabbing impact on football’s biggest stage.

In 2015, then 23 and playing in her first World Cup, Bronze broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 76th minute against Norway to fire the Lionesses into the quarter-finals and hand them a first-ever win in the knockout stage.

Third place in Canada that year remains England’s best-ever finish at the global showpiece, and Bronze knows it will take more than one person for the European Champions to upgrade their silverware in 2023.

She said: “I can’t expect LJ to score in every game and turn in performances like she did against China in every game. She is still young and she’s still getting to grips with playing at the highest level, but you have seen her at Chelsea and she has delivered some fantastic performances.

“We don’t just rely on LJ, we’ve got other players who can step up, but she is fantastic. I know how much quality she has. She has definitely announced herself on the world stage, but this is just the beginning.”

Group D winners England have returned to their Terrigal, New South Wales training base and will on Sunday fly to Brisbane ahead of their meeting with Nigeria in the last 16 the following day.

While the status of midfielder Keira Walsh remains unknown, she has stayed in Australia after sustaining a knee injury in England’s 1-0 victory over Denmark in the group stage.

England boss Sarina Wiegman got creative in Walsh’s absence, employing a 3-5-2 system that seemed to spark the Lionesses to life against China.

While words like ‘dominant’ and ‘consistent’ are often used as descriptors for world number four side England, Wiegman has with one inspired decision added unpredictability into the mix.

England’s Keira Walsh has remained in Australia after sustaining a knee injury against Denmark
England’s Keira Walsh has remained in Australia after sustaining a knee injury against Denmark England’s Keira Walsh has remained in Australia after sustaining a knee injury against Denmark (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Bronze added: “Keira is irreplaceable, there isn’t anyone who can do what she does in the world.

“A lot of teams have studied England, they have wanted to beat England being the European champions. We have shuffled things about a little bit and it keeps other teams on their toes.

“They don’t know what to expect, it makes us unpredictable.

“If Keira does come back and play, who is to say how we will play?”