Women’s Euro 2022: Alessia Russo happy for bench role if it helps England reach ultimate glory

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Russo happy if super sub role helps England to Euro 2022 glory  (AFP via Getty Images)
Russo happy if super sub role helps England to Euro 2022 glory (AFP via Getty Images)

Growing up as a Manchester United fan, Alessia Russo watched arguably the greatest super sub in history, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, make himself a hero time and time again.

It is still early days in her England career but Russo is making a name for herself as a game-changer from the bench and she could be key to the Lionesses’ shot at Euro 2022 glory.

The 23-year-old made a telling impact as a substitute against Spain on Wednesday, setting up Ella Toone’s late equaliser and giving England fresh drive in attack as they won 2-1 after extra-time to book a semi-final spot.

In Pictures | Women’s Euro 2022 (Quarter-Final): England vs Spain

England’s Lauren Hemp and teammates celebrate after the match (REUTERS)
England’s Lauren Hemp and teammates celebrate after the match (REUTERS)
England manager Sarina Wiegman celebrates after the match (REUTERS)
England manager Sarina Wiegman celebrates after the match (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone scores their first goal past Spain’s Sandra Panos (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone scores their first goal past Spain’s Sandra Panos (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone celebrates scoring their first goal (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone celebrates scoring their first goal (REUTERS)
Georgia Stanway of England celebrates with teammate Lauren Hemp after scoring their team’s second goal (The FA via Getty Images)
Georgia Stanway of England celebrates with teammate Lauren Hemp after scoring their team’s second goal (The FA via Getty Images)
Spain’s Sandra Panos in action with England’s Alex Greenwood and Mary Earps (REUTERS)
Spain’s Sandra Panos in action with England’s Alex Greenwood and Mary Earps (REUTERS)
Players of England huddle following the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Quarter Final match (The FA via Getty Images)
Players of England huddle following the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Quarter Final match (The FA via Getty Images)
England’s Georgia Stanway celebrates scoring their second goal with Lauren Hemp (REUTERS)
England’s Georgia Stanway celebrates scoring their second goal with Lauren Hemp (REUTERS)
Leah Williamson of England is challenged by Patri Guijarro of Spain (Getty Images)
Leah Williamson of England is challenged by Patri Guijarro of Spain (Getty Images)
Sarina Wiegman celebrates with Alessia Russo and Millie Bright of England after their sides victory (Getty Images)
Sarina Wiegman celebrates with Alessia Russo and Millie Bright of England after their sides victory (Getty Images)
Spain’s Marta Cardona in action with England’s Mary Earps (REUTERS)
Spain’s Marta Cardona in action with England’s Mary Earps (REUTERS)

The question now for Sarina Weigman is whether to start Russo or stick with Ellen White against either Sweden or Belgium at Bramall Lane next Tuesday.

Russo has only started once for England, with her 10 other caps coming from the bench.

But she has still scored seven goals, with three of those coming as part of an 11-minute hat-trick against Latvia in November - which is the fastest by any Lioness.

Her devastating form off the bench has continued at Euro 2022, where she has appeared as a substitute in all four of England’s games. In the group stage, she weighed in with three goals and played a key role from the bench on Wednesday.

She gave England a focal point in attack and pinned Spain’s centre-backs by using her physicality. Until that point, Wiegman’s side had looked blunt in attack as White struggled to get into the game.

White, who is England’s greatest ever female goalscorer, has had a mixed tournament, impressing against Norway but finding it difficult to make an impact in other games.

It has, arguably for the first time in White’s career, started a debate as to whether she should be replaced by Russo given her impressive cameos off the bench.

“Whenever I am given a chance I will take it, whether it’s as a starter or on the bench,” Russo told Standard Sport.

“I am just delighted to be here and keep performing for the team, and grinding out results at a major tournament. We have some unbelievable talent in the dressing room, it’s just important to help as much as I can.”

Wiegman has named the same starting XI in every game at the tournament so far and the chances of her dropping White seem slim.

For starters, the 33-year-old brings a wealth of experience and is a real leader in the dressing room. Then there is the role she plays too, which is reminiscent of that of Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

White is a goalscorer, but increasingly she has sacrificed that to create space for wingers Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp to flourish.

Competition: Ellen White is England’s answer to Roberto Firmino (The FA via Getty Images)
Competition: Ellen White is England’s answer to Roberto Firmino (The FA via Getty Images)

Then there is Russo’s role. Along with Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone, she has become Wiegman’s go-to substitution in matches. The trio are very much like the ‘finishers’ Eddie Jones talks about in rugby, players who can hurt a tired opposition.

Russo and Toone have been excellent as a pair off the bench and that is little surprise given they have played together since they were 14. They are best friends and their chemistry off the pitch shows on it.

Fans were singing their names to Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ at full-time on Wednesday and, as a weapon off the bench, there a few better than the double act of Russo and Toone.

Russo will, of course, have aspirations of being England’s No9 one day and the Manchester United forward certainly has the pedigree to do so. Her dad Mario was also a striker and remains the club-record goalscorer for the Metropolitan Police.

A youth career that started at Charlton could well culminate in Russo playing at a major final at Wembley next week.

Whether that is from the bench or the start remains to be seen, but either way she has the ability to be England’s hero.

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