College Football & Soccer Analyst
SYDNEY, Australia — Lauren James will not start for England against Spain in Sunday’s World Cup final (coverage begins at 5 a.m. ET, with kickoff at 6 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).
Manager Sarina Wiegman is rolling with the same lineup she used in the quarterfinal and semifinal victories.
James, a breakout star for the Lionesses during the group stage, was suspended for the last two matches after being issued a red card during England’s win over Nigeria in the round of 16.
With Wiegman’s lineup unchanged, this means Ella Toone gets the nod again. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder scored the opening goal for her squad in its 3-1 semifinal victory over Australia and played nearly the whole match (she was subbed off in the 90th minute in stoppage time). Toone was also the one to equalize in England’s ultimate 2-1 win over Spain in the Euro 2022 quarterfinal.
[England’s Lauren James can pick up where she left off in World Cup final – if she plays]
England’s Ella Toone opens scoring against Australia
Initially, it was thought James’ absence would be a huge blow for her team’s championship hopes. The 21-year-old sensation had scored or assisted on six of England’s 14 goals at this tournament. And, England has taken three more shots per 90 minutes with James on the field.
But the Lionesses made it to their first World Cup final anyway.
On the eve of the match, Wiegman was coy about what role James would play Sunday. Would she start? All the coach would say was that James has been training and would be available, which she is off the bench.
But having James in any available capacity will be a huge boost for England, and having a talent like her coming in as a substitute at any moment could be a huge advantage.
Meanwhile, two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas will not start for Spain, but 19-year-old breakout star Salma Paralluelo will start after coming off the bench — and scoring — in the last two matches.
[How Salma Paralluelo went from track star to Spain’s World Cup game-changer]
Putellas has been used intermittently throughout the tournament as she is still working her way back from tearing an ACL. She sustained that injury the day before the Euros started last year, meaning she was unavailable for La Roja‘s match against the Lionesses in that tournament. England defeated Spain 2-1 in the quarterfinal on the way to its first Euro title.
Spain’s Salma Paralluelo scores against Sweden in 81st minute
Putellas started the semifinal vs. Sweden, but was subbed off for Paralluelo in the 57th minute. Putellas, who has not spoken with the media throughout this World Cup, did not look pleased as she took a seat on the bench. Paralluelo went on to score Spain’s first goal in the 81st minute.
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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