England boss Sarina Wiegman heaps praise on goalscorer Lauren James

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Sarina Wiegman praised first-time England goalscorer Lauren James after the 4-0 win over South Korea at Stadium MK – and criticised the “unacceptable” playing surface at the ground.

Opening their defence of the Arnold Clark Cup, the European champions went in front in the 40th minute via a Georgia Stanway penalty won by James, moments after Alessia Russo had hit a shot against a post.

Chloe Kelly and Russo then scored in quick succession soon after the break before James capped her player-of-the match performance by notching her first England goal, the 21-year-old striking past Kim Jung-mi in the 78th minute.

Lionesses boss Wiegman said of the forward: “She’s very tight on the ball and can dribble really well too.

“Last season she didn’t play a lot, she was still building. This year she’s playing more and more and a lot now in the latest time. She feels good, you can tell, she plays really well.

“I think she has been a talent of course for a long time, she just needed to be available and needed some time at Chelsea. I think she worked really hard at Chelsea, that’s what you can see this season at Chelsea, then she can take the next step to the national team. I hope now she gets consistency, stays fit and keeps enjoying herself.”

Sarina Wiegman
Sarina Wiegman feels she has great depth at his disposal (Mike Egerton/PA)

“In those positions up front, there’s lots of competition. I can’t complain about the depth of this team, let’s put it this way. I don’t like to have headaches – but in this case I do.”

Something Wiegman definitely did not like was the state of the pitch in Milton Keynes, on which Belgium had earlier beaten Italy 2-1 in the opening match of the four-team round-robin competition.

“I think this pitch was unacceptable. This stadium is really nice, it’s very nice to be in it, but this pitch, we can’t play on a pitch like this any more, at this level. It’s just really unacceptable.”

England – who also hit the woodwork three times in the match, and are now unbeaten in 27 games under Wiegman, with 23 wins – continue their Arnold Clark Cup campaign by facing Italy in Coventry on Sunday.

Wiegman’s side were taking on a South Korea outfit ranked 11 places below them at 15th in the world.

England v Korea Republic – Arnold Clark Cup – Stadium MK
Colin Bell believes England are the world’s best side (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We knew it was going to be really difficult. We normally play a high press, offensively, but today we had to choose basically almost the catenaccio, Italian way of parking three or four buses, and I think the first half we did reasonably well.

“I don’t personally think it was a penalty, but OK, the referee gave it. Then the first three or four minutes (of the second half) you concede two goals and then the game obviously is a really, really difficult ask. Credit to the players, they kept trying, but it was wave after wave of attacks.”

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