Two ground-breaking moments in Australian sports history have been honoured, with the Matildas and the Sydney 2000 women's water polo gold medallists winning major…
England midfielder Lauren James has been handed a two-match ban following her sending-off against Nigeria in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup.
James was red-carded for violent conduct after standing on Nigeria defender Michelle Alozie.
As expected, she will now miss the quarter-final match against Colombia in Sydney on Saturday, and won’t be available for the semi-finals and a potential meeting with Australia, should the Matildas win their quarter-final against France.
But after much speculation that James might pick up a three-match ban and miss the rest of the tournament, at least she would be available for the final if England got there.
James had been one of the stars of the tournament, scoring three goals and providing three more assists as England advanced as Group D winner.
She has apologised for her conduct in getting a red card.
“Obviously she’s disappointed with what happened on the day,” England forward Beth England said.
“It was a split second, emotional moment that happened. We’ve got around her. It is good that she’s acknowledged that and put her apology out and now we just wait to see what FIFA do and we just move on from it now.”
As a young centre-back growing up in country New South Wales, Clare Hunt had two footballing heroes: Matildas great Clare Polkinghorne and France legend Wendie Renard.
In her rapid rise to the top, she’s replaced one. To take the Matildas to the next level, she’ll have to vanquish the other.
It’s a challenge Hunt will embrace in Saturday’s Women’s World Cup quarter-final at Suncorp Stadium.
“Wendie Renard was a role model for me. I saw her composure at a young age and wanted to emulate that in some way,” Hunt told reporters on Thursday.
“I feel like I know the way that Wendie plays because I used to watch her as a kid.
“She’s an amazing athlete, centre-back, leader.
“Her distribution: she’s exceptionally good on the ball. She’s calm. She’s a very good defender in terms of her positioning. They’re the three big things that I would look for.”
“In terms of how to deal with that, we’ve just got to play to our strengths. We recognise that she’s going to be difficult to get around.”
Beyond being a wonderful defender, Renard is a 187-centimetre powerhouse at attacking set pieces, making a habit of scoring clutch headers from corners or free kicks.
Is it Hunt’s job to stop her?
“That’s going to have to be someone’s job,” she said matter-of-factly.
“She’s an exceptional athlete. Her height is such an advantage on set pieces, but we will just continue to do what we’ve been doing on our set pieces.
“We’ve defended set pieces exceptionally well through the four games that we’ve played. We’re looking to nullify her as a strength up there.”
Hunt began her international career alongside Polkinghorne but has since been joined by Alanna Kennedy in the heart of Australia’s defence.
The 34-year-old Polkinghorne, Australia’s record appearance maker, has described Hunt as “the future of this back line”.
The feeling is mutual, even if Polkinghorne, who battled a heel problem pre-tournament, is contributing limited minutes off the bench.
“Polks is one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet,” Hunt said.
“She gives so much time, she makes you feel so comfortable.
“As a youngster I would look up to Polks. She was an extremely composed, great ball-playing centre back who was just absolutely strong in all challenges she went into.
“I remember when I was younger that I wanted to emulate Polks. To be here playing alongside her for the start of my international career has been nothing but special.
“She has supported me as a centre-back and as a friend.”