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England’s Lauren James will return from suspension for World Cup final

Lauren James missed England's quarterfinal and semifinal matches after receiving a two-game suspension. (Naomi Baker/The FA via Getty Images)

With England’s win in its World Cup semifinal, the Lionesses assured that one of their star players can make her return.

Lauren James received a two-game ban for her red card against Nigeria, which she earned by stepping on the back of Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie in the Round of 16. A red card comes with an automatic one-game suspension, which FIFA later upgraded to two games.

Before missing the last two rounds of the World Cup, the 21-year-old had been electric for England, leading the team with three goals and assisting on three more – which puts her in line for best player of the tournament. With James eligible to return to the pitch in Sunday’s championship match against Spain, the question becomes: Should she be included in the starting lineup?

“She makes the team better, but it almost feels a little unfair to put her in over some players that have performed,” Fox Sports analyst Jimmy Conrad said after the semifinal. “Like Ella Toone came in for her, and she scored today. Like a banger.”

“Lauren James is so dynamic and she adds something in the attack that nobody else offers,” former USWNT player Leslie Osborne added. “Lauren James is healthy and fit. She’s sitting out for other reasons. For me, I think I might start Lauren James because of the ability she has to change games. And I think England looked different without her in these last few games. And I think they missed how dynamic she is in that attacking third. She’s just such a special player and that X factor.”

Fellow Fox Sports analyst Melissa Ortiz also argued that James has served her time. Plus, while Toone opened the scoring in the semifinal win against Australia, James’ game better suits what Spain offers on defense.

“Ella Toone, credit to her, she did incredible,” Ortiz said. “But Lauren James has so much more versatility to her game. She’s also strong and I think that’s gonna make the difference against Spain.”