England barely survived Nigeria on penalty kicks, but it was a dirty play that everyone was talking about afterward.
The Lionesses entered the contest as the heavy favorites, but the world No. 4 were constantly run off their feet by their 40th-ranked opponents.
In a contest that went right down to the wire, England needed a penalty shootout to book its place in the quarterfinal stages of the Women’s World Cup.
The contest, however, was sent into chaos in the 85th minute when England star Lauren James stomped on the back of Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie.
While play went on, VAR interjected as the referee raced to the monitor to check on the incident.
Given the obviously dangerous nature of the act, James was promptly shown a straight red card, which will see her suspended for at least one match.
The absurd incident ultimately didn’t cost England as it scraped past its rivals in a tense penalty shootout.
But all eyes will now turn to James’ future in the World Cup with FIFA retaining the ability to suspend players for longer periods, which could see James miss a potential semifinal matchup against Australia, should the two nations win its next two fixtures.
It is a three-match penalty if James is found guilty of violent conduct, which would significantly hamstring the Lionesses – James has been the standout for England this tournament and would be a contender for player of the tournament.
Social media blew up at the act, which left fans and pundits alike stunned.
“That‘s so dumb from Lauren James,” ESPN’s Marissa Lordanic said.
ESPN’s Valerio Veo was amazed.
“WHAT. THE. HELL. THIS WORLD CUP,” Veo said on Twitter.
“Lauren James sent off for violent conduct,” ESPN’s Adam Santarossa said.
“England’s journey just got a lot tougher …”
Sportswriter Brendan Bradford recalled, as did many an England fan on social media, similar incidents involving David Beckham and Wayne Rooney at previous World Cups.
“Beckham kicking Diego Simeone areas,” Bradford wrote.
Sportswriter Flo Lloyd-Hughes similarly recalled Beckham and Rooney’s indiscretions.
“Really silly stuff from Lauren James,” Lloyd-Hughes wrote.
“We saw it from Beckham in 98, Rooney in 06. The most mercurial players, at their youngest and with the most pressure lost in the moment.”
“Lauren James has been great so far this tournament but that moment of madness could cost the entire team,” said freelancer Alex McMahon.
Broadcaster Georgie Heath was livid.
“LAUREN JAMES YOU COULD HAVE BEEN AN ENGLISH HERO AND YOU DO THAT?”, Heath wrote.
England will now take on either Jamaica or Colombia in its quarterfinal contest.