Four moments that show why England can still win the Women’s World Cup

Mary Earps celebrates England's victory over Denmark

Every other team at the World Cup would love to have Mary Earps in goal – AP Photo/Mark Baker

The mood after England’s hard-fought victory over Denmark was understandably sombre. The Lionesses had just seen their most important player, Keira Walsh, carried off on a stretcher with a painful knee injury and her tournament is almost certainly over even if she has avoided anterior cruciate ligament damage.

England are going to have to try to win the World Cup for the first time without the player who makes them tick in midfield. Of the team that started against Germany in last year’s magnificent European Championship triumph, five are missing with regular captain Leah Williamson, Golden Boot winner Beth Mead, No 10 Fran Kirby also injured and Ellen White sitting in a television studio after retiring.

But Telegraph Sport has seen reasons for encouragement from what the team have delivered so far in Australia to lift the doom and gloom.

The arrival of James on the global stage

There is a sense that Sarina Wiegman deliberately left James out of the starting XI for the first game against Haiti as she wanted the 21-year-old to be eased into her first major tournament. It was only a matter of time before she was unleashed and her goal and all round performance against Denmark was proof she is ready to take this tournament by the scruff of the neck.

Her goal was a sublime moment in an ocean of impressive contributions. She terrified the Danish defence every time she was on the ball. Her ability to beat the full back by shifting her weight left or right makes her a nightmare to defend against and her close ball control, skill and touch are the best in this England squad by some margin.

England are going to need a new generation of players to step up with so many senior stars missing and they have got a diamond in James. You suspect she will get even better with the confidence she can hurt international teams as easily as she does club sides. We may just have seen the start of a wonderful England career for the Chelsea youngster.

Greenwood’s all round game

In the first half against Denmark, Alex Greenwood received a difficult pass from Georgia Stanway, high and hit with a little too much pace. The Denmark forwards spotted their chance to press, harass and harry. They had a great opportunity to steal possession from the England centre-back on the halfway line and they would have had a clear run on goal if they had done.

But instead Greenwood controlled the ball with ease, looked up and threaded a pass through the gap between the two Danish players. Instead of going backwards, it got England on to the front foot and the first wave of their press had been bypassed.

That is why she is better playing at centre-back. Now with the loss of Walsh her passing range and accuracy will be even more required in the middle of the pitch.

In the second half we saw the other side to her game, a brilliant sliding tackle, as the last defender, to stop a chance through in on goal.

England's Alex Greenwood tackles Denmark's Rikke Marie Madsen

Alex Greenwood combined both the destructive and creative arts in her fine performance at centre-half – AP Photo/Mark Baker

Greenwood was only used as a substitute at the Euros but she is a quality player and will be more important now than she has ever been.

Earps is world’s best goalkeeper

Make no mistake, England were under intense pressure late in the game but the defence held firm, with Mary Earps needing to make only one really good save, tipping a swirling effort over the bar as she backpedalled. It was an excellent save and most goalkeepers would not have got to it.

Earps made headlines earlier in the tournament for her criticism of Nike’s decision not to make replica goalkeeper’s jerseys for kids but that should not distract from her ability between the posts.

England are going to be stretched and the better sides they will face later in the tournament will inevitably create more chances than Haiti or Denmark. However, every single side left in the World Cup would want to be going into the knockout rounds with Earps in goal. England are lucky to have her and if she excels, they still have every chance of progressing deep into this tournament. Who knows, she could even be the heroine in a penalty shootout.

Bronze will not quit and neither will this England team

When Walsh was leaving the field, her friend and former Manchester City team-mate tried to console her. Her efforts were abruptly dismissed, with Walsh screaming “it’s over” back at her. Bronze took a step back and adjusted her hair knot. She stretched her hamstrings and refocused.

She seemed to be everywhere after that, charging into tackles, bursting forward to offer her support in attack. She was, not for the first time, a woman on a mission in an England shirt.

She is the Lionesses warrior queen and she will not go down without a fight. She needs to win the World Cup to ensure she has lifted every trophy on offer to her and she will view the loss of Walsh as an inconvenience rather than a terminal blow.

England’s players were visibly upset by Walsh’s injury on the pitch and they did lose their rhythm for a while, but when they had to hold firm against a late onslaught they did so. The team spirit in this group is incredibly strong. They have not given up on winning the World Cup and neither should we.

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