England captain Leah Williamson lauded “cheat code” Lauren James after her shining performance in the 4-0 Arnold Clark Cup victory over South Korea in Milton Keynes.
James’ display, which earned her the player of the match award, included winning the penalty that Georgia Stanway dispatched to give the Lionesses the lead late in the first half, and was capped with her first England goal, a strike in the 78th minute.
It was a sixth cap for the 21-year-old, who made her senior international debut last September and has been in fine form for Chelsea this season.
“We have a squad that’s obviously got standards and non-negotiables and Sarina has touched on it before about this real English mentality, about how we’ve all been brought up to work hard.
“She’s trying to bring out the best of us as well and make sure that we bring the best of ourselves in the game – and somebody like Lauren is a perfect example of that. The girl is incredible.”
James was with Williamson at Arsenal before moving on to Manchester United and then Chelsea in the summer of 2021.
And Williamson added: “She was always going to be this good. It was just a matter of time. Her circumstances at the moment have just cooked up a bit of a storm for her and she’s flying.”
England’s right side on Thursday had James playing in front of Lucy Bronze, and the Barcelona full-back said: “Everyone knows the quality that LJ has got, technically, on the ball she’s probably one of the best there is.
“It’s fun for me to play with her because I know she’s always going to get the ball in the right place.
“I like linking up with her, and I mean, it’s crazy she’s so young now, because this is the player that everyone has been talking about for five years now – we’ve been waiting for this superstar and this is just the beginning.
There was also a tribute from South Korea’s former Chelsea midfielder Ji So-yun, an unused substitute for the game, who said, when asked if James could win the Ballon d’Or: “Yeah, why not?
“She will win the Ballon d’Or one day if she works hard every day. She has everything.”
“It’s something I’ve been working towards and I’m just really happy and proud of myself, and hopefully I’ve done my family proud as well. I’m just wanting to continue to improve and help the team where I can.”
Chloe Kelly and Alessia Russo – with finishes in quick succession in the opening few minutes of the second half – were the other scorers as Wiegman’s European champions opened their Arnold Clark Cup defence, and fixtures for 2023, with a dominant performance.
England also hit the woodwork three times in a match that saw them start with Milton Keynes-born Williamson in midfield in the absence of the unwell Keira Walsh – she later dropped back into defence – and James, Russo and Kelly as a front three in the team’s first match since Beth Mead sustained her ACL injury in November. Midfielder Laura Coombs came off the bench for her first cap since 2015.
England – now unbeaten in 27 games under Wiegman, with 23 wins – continue their Arnold Clark Cup campaign and preparations for the summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, by facing Italy in Coventry on Sunday.
They top the four-team round-robin competition’s table on goal difference ahead of Belgium, who beat Italy 2-1 in the earlier game at Stadium MK on Thursday.