Lauren James produced a sensational individual performance as England entertained to sweep aside China and book their place in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup as group winners.
It was a display worthy of their status as European champions and James once again lit the stage alight in Adelaide with two sensational goals and two assists.
The 13,497 in attendance were treated to a masterclass from Chelsea’s James, who announced her arrival at the World Cup with the match-winner against Denmark on Friday.
She helped England get off to the perfect start when she teed up Alessia Russo for the opener, and later slipped the ball through to Lauren Hemp to coolly place it into the bottom corner.
It was largely one-way traffic as England dominated and overwhelmed, James striking it first time into the corner from the edge of the box to make it 3-0 before another stunning finish was ruled out by video assistant referee (VAR) for offside in the build-up.
China knew they were heading out of the tournament unless they responded, so they came out with more aggression in the second half, unnerving England slightly when Shuang Wang scored from the penalty spot after VAR picked up a handball by defender Lucy Bronze.
But James was not done yet – she volleyed Jess Carter’s deep cross past helpless goalkeeper Yu Zhu for England’s fourth before substitute Chloe Kelly and striker Rachel Daly joined the party.
England, who had quietly gone about their business in the group stages, will have raised eyebrows with this performance before their last-16 match against Nigeria on Monday.
China are out of the competition after Denmark beat Haiti to finish in second place in Group D.
Manager Sarina Wiegman kept everyone guessing when she named her starting XI, with England fans anxiously waiting to see how they would set up without injured midfielder Keira Walsh.
Wiegman’s response was to unleash England’s attacking talent on a China side who struggled to match them in physicality, intensity and sharpness.
James oozed magic and unpredictability, Hemp used her pace to test China’s defence and captain Millie Bright was ferocious in her tackling, winning the ball back on countless occasions.