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England close on World Cup last 16 but suffer Walsh injury blow

England closed in on a place in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup with a 1-0 win over Denmark on Friday but their victory was overshadowed by a potentially serious injury to key midfielder Keira Walsh.

Lauren James scored the only goal of the game in Sydney in the sixth minute for the reigning European champions, bending in a superb strike from outside the box.

Sarina Wiegman’s side had more of the possession and more of the chances, but they found themselves hanging on at the end as Amalie Vangsgaard hit the post with a header for Denmark.

England’s second win in as many games in Group D means they will secure a place in the knockout rounds with a match to spare later on Friday if China fail to beat debutants Haiti in Adelaide.

However, they are now waiting nervously to discover the extent of the injury suffered by Barcelona midfielder Walsh, who was stretchered off late in the first half.

Walsh, a key cog in the England team that won the Euro last year, stretched to intercept a pass in her own half and went down in agony.

She immediately signalled to the bench that she could not carry on amid fears of a knee injury.

“Of course I’m concerned because she could not walk off the pitch,” said Wiegman.

“But we don’t know yet (how bad the injury is) so we can’t make any assumptions. Let’s just really wait until we have a diagnosis.”

‘Amazing feeling’ for James

England are already without two key players at this World Cup because of knee injuries — centre-back and captain Leah Williamson and Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead.

The biggest positive was the performance of James, the 21-year-old Chelsea forward who was brought into the starting line-up in one of two changes from England’s opening 1-0 victory against Haiti.

“It’s an amazing feeling and something I always dreamed of,” she said of scoring the winner.

Denmark have three points after two outings and will still hope to clinch a place in the last 16 when they play Haiti next Tuesday.

England’s next game is against China in Adelaide the same day.

South Africa denied

Earlier, Argentina launched a thrilling comeback to deny South Africa a first win ever at the tournament as the sides drew 2-2 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

South Africa were cruising to a historic first win in five matches at the World Cup after goals by Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana either side of half-time.

But Argentina pulled one back via a stunning Sophia Braun strike in the 74th minute and then drew level five minutes later when Romina Nunez headed home.

South Africa also threw away the lead, and then conceded the decisive goal in the last minute, to lose 2-1 to Sweden in their opening match.

“It is about taking our chances, making better decisions in the final third. If we take our chances we have a different conversation,” coach Desiree Ellis said.

“Today was a great opportunity to put ourselves a step ahead, but it is not all lost.”

Appearing at their fourth World Cup, Argentina have still never won in 11 attempts themselves.

Argentina and South Africa have one point each in Group G.

Favourites Sweden and Italy have three points before facing off in Wellington on Saturday, ahead of a decisive final round of games on August 2.

Also on Saturday, France face Brazil in a must-win game in Brisbane, while Jamaica play Panama in the same Group F.

Held to a goalless draw by Jamaica in their opening match, France are under pressure and are sweating on the fitness of captain Wendie Renard.

She is battling to recover from a calf injury but took part in training on Friday.

“We are not certain tonight 100 percent, we will have the answer tomorrow because training sessions do not compare to a competitive game,” coach Herve Renard said on the eve of the game when asked about the Lyon stalwart’s fitness.