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England’s Lauren James apologizes for stepping on World Cup opponent

England's Lauren James received a red card for stamping on Nigeria's Michelle Alozie. (Elsa/FIFA via Getty Images)

England’s Lauren James will miss her team’s World Cup quarterfinal – and possibly the rest of the tournament – after receiving a red card in Monday’s Round of 16 match.

The 21-year-old forward appeared to step on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie in the game’s 84th minute as Alozie was lying on the ground. The Lionesses still managed to secure their spot in the quarterfinals on penalties after the game finished 0-0 following regulation and extra time. But England will have to face Colombia without one of its best players.

And James could miss more than one match, as FIFA reserves the right to extend the ban. In the event of a red card, “further sanctions may be imposed by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee,” per the World Cup rules.

On Tuesday, Alozie called for James’ critics to “rest,” though she did note the play was deserving of a red card.

“We are playing on the world’s stage,” she wrote. “This game is one of passion, insurmountable emotions, and moments. All respect for Lauren James.”

James apologized in a reply to Alozie’s social media post.

“All my love and respect to you. I am sorry for what happened,” James wrote. “Also, for our England fans and my team-mates, playing with and for you is my greatest honour and I promise to learn from my experience.”

England’s Football Association issued its own statement after the incident, saying that James is “really sorry for her actions which led to the red card and is full of remorse.”

“It is wholly out of character for her,” the FA said in its statement, while also noting that it will be putting forward representation to FIFA on her behalf. FIFA’s decision on James’ ban could come after England’s quarterfinal match on Saturday.

“We fully respect FIFA’s disciplinary process and will not be making any further comment until after any decision has been made,” the statement concluded.

England captain Millie Bright also expressed her support for James after Monday’s match.

“It’s football. Listen, I have had red cards. Everyone goes through it as a player, everyone goes through it on the world stage,” Bright said. “But for me, it’s not a situation that needs too much light shining on it.

“It’s happened. It’s in the past. We are through. All that matters is we come together as a group, we have each others’ backs, and it is just another challenge in football that the player has to face. But we have got her back completely and we will get ready for the next game.”

England’s Rachel Daly said after the match that James was “disappointed” and “upset.”

“She’s a young player people forget that, they put a lot of pressure on her on the outside, media, everyone puts a lot of pressure on the kid, she’s a young girl, she’s got a lot to learn and she knows that,” Daly said.

“But ultimately it’s a team game, she’s been excellent for us and course, [we’ll] put an arm round her, help her through it and she’ll learn from it. She’s a fantastic player with a bright future ahead of her.”

Following the game, Arsenal coach Jonas Eidevall told BBC Sport that he thought James’ frustration in the match had boiled over, and that she should have been taken off sooner by England manager Sarina Wiegman.

“It’s decision fatigue. The two games before this probably took their toll for energy, we could see in the game that she was starting to take some bad decisions on and off the ball,” he said. “I think the lack of subs in the second half surprised me here form England, because I think the momentum was not going their way. England are quite lucky to actually be here now for extra-time and they could have been more proactive with the subs. Now they need to find a strategy with 10 players.”

Former England striker Ellen White agreed that James had grown frustrated. But she also agreed with the red card call.

“It’s disappointing. She was frustrated throughout the game, she wasn’t really in the game as much as she would have liked,” she said. “But she’s clearly stood on the Nigeria player. There was just no need for it, was there? Really disappointing.”

Wiegman addressed James’ red card after the match.

“It was a moment that was in a split-second,” she said. “It was later in the game so players get a little tired. She is inexperienced on this stage and in a split-second lost her emotions. She would never want to hurt someone, she is the sweetest person I know.”

“Things happen, you can’t change it,” she continued. “It’s a huge lesson for her to learn but isn’t something she did on purpose.”