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England announce arrival with 6-1 win over China

The ‘ole’ chants had kicked in before 40 minutes had been played and the same fans were rocking out to Van Halen at half-time.

England had arrived at the Women’s World Cup.

The party atmosphere evolved throughout England’s scintillating 6-1 victory over China, confirming their place in the last 16 as group winners.

The Lionesses swept aside China with slick, unpredictable and entertaining football in one of the best performances in the tournament so far.

It was a display that sent a statement to England’s rivals in Australia. The European champions mean business and have finally shown their quality.

When half-time arrived, England were in cruise control at 3-0 up – a goal and two assists already in the bag for Chelsea sensation Lauren James.

England were one of the pre-tournament favourites but injuries to key players Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby had dominated the build-up to the World Cup.

Sarina Wiegman’s side then opened Group D with an unconvincing 1-0 win against Haiti, ranked 49 places lower than them, before they had to rely on a James stunner to help them over the line in a 1-0 victory against Denmark.

England had six points in the bag and sat top of the group, but the performances had created more questions than provided answers.

Struggling for fluidity, their goalscoring touch also seemed to have deserted them, with just one goal from open play in their past four matches – while none of England’s strikers had got off the mark.

To add to the concern, instrumental midfielder Keira Walsh picked up a knee injury – so by the time the Lionesses were lining up to face China in their final group match, English pessimism had started to creep in.

Tension was hardly reduced when Wiegman named her starting XI for Tuesday’s match in Adelaide and few could state confidently what the formation was.

It was rogue, unpredictable and risky by a manager who had named the same team throughout Euro 2022 and has rarely switched from a favoured 4-2-1-3 formation.

This was an uncharacteristic experiment in the middle of the game’s biggest tournament.

Instead of her favoured flat back four, England set up with a back three – and it worked almost instantly.

China, perhaps as unprepared as everyone else, could not work out how to track England’s runners and they attacked relentlessly, creating chances in abundance.

Alessia Russo, who looked incredibly sharp, opened the scoring within four minutes.

James then sprang into life, linking up well with Lauren Hemp, while defender Millie Bright – who had looked rusty in the first two games on her return from injury – won the ball back on numerous occasions in the midfield area as England added to their tally.

Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze barely left the China half from their wing-back positions and the attacking verve did not relent after the break when substitutes Chloe Kelly, Bethany England and Laura Coombs entered the stage.

“It is like we’ve finally arrived,” former England midfielder Karen Carney told ITV. This is why Sarina Wiegman is paid the big bucks.”

While it was undoubtedly a victory built on a flowing team performance, 21-year-old James’ display stole the show once again.

Her talent left even the opposition in awe, as she departed the field to a standing ovation by some members of the Chinese media as well as the majority of the 13,000 supporters in Adelaide.

– BBC News