Alessia Russo has four goals and two assists in just over two-hundred minutes of play at the 2022 EUROS. In each match, despite offering greater fluidity and a better complement to the talent around her, Russo has come off the bench to replace Ellen White – and I think I know why. England manager Sarina Wiegman knows some things are bigger than football, and is doing so as a public service.
The “problem” with Russo is that she’s shown a recent penchant for the absolutely unreal. As football fans, most of us live for these moments. There’s a lot that can happen during ninety minutes of the most skillful athletes chasing a ball with a lone result in mind, and it’s those supposedly rare moments of brilliance leaving us gobsmacked that keeps us coming back (and, if I’m honest, some of us fiending; it me, I am us).
And therein lies the problem, Russo forces a ‘supposedly.’ These things aren’t meant to happen with such frequency, the human brain cannot handle it and we do not have the studies, data nor medical breakthroughs necessary to establish preventive measures or cope with the aftermath.
It all began with a flawlessly executed touch and turn versus Northern Ireland. In an instant Russo decides to let the ball run across her so she can snag it with her right boot, mid-pirouette, to position the ball and herself into a shooting position directly in front of goal. In the buildup, her awareness to identify and occupy the pocket between defenders was textbook, everything after was an addendum.
It's 4-0!— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) July 15, 2022
Russo scores her second after she combined with her Man United team-mate Toone brilliantly.#rtesoccer #weuro2022
Watch live - https://t.co/aR8cFziKxF
Live updates - https://t.co/OvtIPBRlIn pic.twitter.com/ZpwBimK1gN
Rewatch the angle starting at :50 to see the true scope madness in concocting this goal.
Just eleven days after this, which included an assist in a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Spain, Russo sent multiple Swedes to the shadow realm with a purely wicked backheel nutmeg goal.
¡Gooooooool golaaaaaaaaazo de Inglaterra!— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) July 26, 2022
Russo nos acaba de regalar el gol del torneo. ¡Espectacular de taquito!
3-0 #VeranoDeCampeonas | #Inglaterra | #Suecia
(No, it’s not time for more words yet, go watch the goal again and come back.)
It’s peak mesmerizing, filthy and audacious. The pain of a goal that all but cements an opposition’s loss can be read on the faces of its defenders. However, when it’s a goal as sinister as this, it breaks brains and drops stomachs. Unfortunately this was the case for Sweden center back Magdalena Eriksson, whose immediate reaction was to double over when she pieced together what Russo had done. When you’ve seen and defended as much attacking football as Eriksson, it takes something truly wicked to extract this reaction.
The most terrifying thing about this, however, is that afterward Russo remarked how she was still upset at missing with her first shot. We can’t fully be what we’re meant to be until we outline and embrace it, meaning, she’s not yet at the full actualization of her audacity. There’s no telling what she might try next when she knows she has the skill, technique and speed of thought to turn the outer edges of her imagination into a highlight.
Sarina Wiegman refusing to name Russo in her starting XI is a public service. While Wiegman likely feels a ‘don’t touch anything, don’t even breathe’ level of anti-tinkering entering a major final, as a humanitarian she also realizes many countries still do not have universal healthcare. Russo cannot start.