Ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, BestofBets profiles England striker Alessia Russo and looks at the role she might play in the Lionesses’ potential glory in Australia and New Zealand…
Arsenal transfer storm
Any footballer who moves between Arsenal and Manchester United in a World Cup summer was always going to take centre stage.
Whether that be in women’s football, or men’s.
Add in the fact that Alessia Russo can boast an iconic goal en-route to tournament glory with England two years ago – the backheel that was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award 2022 – and you have a genuine superstar atop the female game.
Having returned to her southern roots, Russo is now in search of more individual and team trophies with Arsenal.
But not exclusively.
The 24-year-old striking sensation made a telling admission to the media circus around her this summer.
“Towards the end of the season it was tough and the summer has been tough,” Russo said last month. “You don’t like things in the media about you but that’s football and that’s the state of the women’s game.”
Time well spent down under 💫 pic.twitter.com/ghz1xOwuEd
— Alessia Russo (@alessiarusso7) July 14, 2023
Starring World Cup role
Ultimately, the media coverage was a form of flattery.
It reflected Russo’s rising star in the game, now gunning to be starter in this tournament for Sarina Wiegman’s side – rather than settle for the super sub she had at the European Championship in 2021.
Russo is competing for a starting XI berth with the WSL’s leading scorer Rachel Daly – a converted full back – as well as Tottenham’s Beth England.
“They are top, top players so to be able to play with them and train with them every day has been great,” said Russo.
But Daly and England don’t have the same hype around them.
Russo, the Baby Faced Assassin, has tournament goalscoring pedigree that Wiegman will lean heavily on.
With 11 England goals in 22 caps, Russo knows her way around international football.
It will be an intriguing battle within a battle.
‘Tooney and Lessi Russooooo’
Undoubtedly, it was the chant of Euro 2021; England’s star ladies were immortalised to the tune of Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’.
The duo were Wiegman’s secret weapons, usually introduced as substitutes to inject energy into games late on.
And although Russo has left Manchester United, where Toone still plays, the pair are still the best of friends.
“She’ll definitely be one of my bridesmaids one day,” Russo has said regarding Toone.
That friendship translates to an on-field chemistry that should take this England side deep into the tournament.
Toone supplies the assists from wide positions; Russo finishes off the moves. It’s what happens.
— Everything England 🏴 (@TheEngllshGame) July 15, 2023
The exciting thing for England fans is that Russo and Toone are still only 24 and 23 respectively.
This World Cup should see them close to their peaks, but there is still ample room for improvement.
A thrilling prospect without question and part of the reason why the Lionesses are second favourites for the tournament at 4/1 to go all the way in Australia.
If England’s women are to go all the way and win successive major silverware, Russo will be front-and-centre.