The tune of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ had a different aura to it when last summer, the England women’s team delivered a first major honour since the 1966 men’s World Cup.
England football fans were gripped by the Lionesses’ journey throughout the Women’s Euro 2022 organised on home soil.
It was the tournament of records as countless historic moments were forged in what can be considered as a sliding door for the elevation of the women’s game profile.
Sarina Weigman’s England recorded several memorable moments throughout their successful run with every single player leaving its mark and inspiring young ones.
One player in particular stood out as she showcased her talent while transcending England’s fans into dreamland with her brilliant moves – Alessia Russo.
A backheel goal against Tokyo 2020 silver medalists Sweden in the semi-finals propelled Russo into stardom, with her goal being named as the tournament’s best as well.
At 23 years old, Russo has the world at her feet as she is now one of the most recognised faces in the game across the globe.
Nonetheless, she remains laser focused about her career as she eyes further improvement and success.
“The European Championships were amazing as we had a really special time together as a team,” Russo told the Times of Malta.
“It was a brilliant period and hopefully we managed to inspire the future generation of girls after bringing the trophy home, which was all we wanted as England.”
Russo will be hoping to have success at club level as well where Manchester United are one of the teams involved in the title race for the Women’s Super League crown.
In seven games, the former Brighton & Hove Albion player found the net on four occasions including in their thrilling 3-2 win against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and in the 5-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
“Winning with England was nice, but now I want to carry on and hopefully I can keep improving to have further success in my career,” she said.
Russo’s talent, the veteran players’ experience and the technical staff’s tactical nuance were key factors in propelling England to success.
However, the Manchester United player heaped praise on the FA for their investment in the women’s game which played a part in this unprecedented triumph.
“Having an FA that backs you is very important, of course,” Russo pointed out.
“We had a very good team but having all our necessities, such as facilities, was crucial in delivering this success.”
Early last December, Kelly Simmons, FA Director of the Women’s Professional Game, had announced that the attendances in the Women’s Super League were up by 200 per cent with Arsenal setting a new league attendance record of 46,367 during their North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
Russo, together with her fellow England’s women’s team players, had urged the government to give every girl in the nation the chance to follow into their footsteps.
The 23 members of the Lionesses signed an open letter, pointing out that only 63 per cent of the girls can play football in school physical education lessons.
One of their main proposals was to ensure girls have access to at least two hours of PE each week and the guidance of female teachers in the subject.
“We are still pushing about our open letter because it is a long process, but we do care about it and want to make sure that it is followed up,” Russo said.
Another fundamental player in the growth of the women’s game is the press coverage which had been crucial during the European Championships last year.
Russo believes that the media is playing an important part in elevating their profile and with games being broadcasted live on big channels like Sky Sports, it can only be of a benefit to promote this movement.
“The fanbase continues to grow and the European Championships played a massive part in that,” Russo underlined.
“We want to have as many people as possible to watch us and enjoy our games.”
Ultimately, results do play a part in engaging even more with supporters and 2023 has two important events in store for the Lionesses which could raise their status to unprecedented heights.
In April, the European champions will face Brazil – Copa America winners – in the inaugural women’s Finalissima organised between UEFA and CONMEBOL at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
Three months later, the 2023 World Cup will take place in Australia and New Zealand where the England fans will be resting their hopes on Russo and her team-mates to make sure that football comes home again.
“Playing against the best teams in the world is always an amazing opportunity,” the Manchester United player said.
“The World Cup is a dream for every young girl.”
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