Alessia Russo: Fifa Puskas award recognition ‘huge’ for women’s game

Alessia Russo celebrates her goal against Sweden
Alessia Russo’s goal in England’s Euro 2022 semi-final win over Sweden is one of 11 up for the Puskas award

England striker Alessia Russo said it is “huge” for women’s football that her goal was among those to be nominated for the Fifa Puskas award.

Among the competition is Kylian Mbappe’s volleyball for France that took the World Cup final to extra time.

“As much as you don’t want to say it’s surreal, it is,” said Russo.

“A few years ago, that wouldn’t have been the case so now to have these kinds of recognition for female footballers, not only in England but across the world, is huge.

“It’s huge for where we want the sport to go. You want to be recognized for what you do. When you’re up against people like that, it puts things into perspective a little bit.”

Lyon’s Amandine Henry is nominated for her goal in the Women’s Champions League final victory, while Spaniard Salma Paralluelo’s stunner against Barcelona was also nominated.

Brazilian Richarlison, Frenchman Mbappe and Italian Mario Balotelli´╗┐ are among the big male names nominated.

“Having three women up for the award is huge. To have one of us win it would be amazing, and would show how much further the game has come,” added Russo, 23.

“An amazing goal is an amazing goal – it doesn’t matter if it’s come from the men’s or the women’s game. We want women’s football to be up there and recognized with the best. Now it’s getting there.

“When I was a kid, watching the Puskas goals, there were never any women on there. It’s great for women’s sport, women’s football and for young girls out there.”

‘It doesn’t often come up in games…’

“Jaw-dropping” and “outrageous” were just some of the words used to describe Russo’s backheel at the Euros, which was voted the best goal of the tournament by Uefa.

Following the goal, her football boots were displayed in the Tower of London, alongside the crown jewels, as a national treasure.

Russo’s former club also incorporated backheel drills into a training session three days later, while t-shirts displaying the goal were printed.

“It was weird! I have [a t-shirt], I haven’t worn it, but I’ve got one. A few of the girls have them and wear them sometimes to wind me up, I get a bit embarrassed when people are wearing them,” said Russo.

“Obviously the boots in the Tower of London was the most incredible thing. Then just loads of young kids recreating [the goal]that’s the biggest thing for me.

“The club that I used to play for had a training session a few days after the game and one of their drills was a backheel drill. That was really cool. I got sent a few nice videos of all of that, which was lovely. “

Russo is still asked about the goal frequently and jokes she is starting to get “a little sick of it” but is aware of its significance in England’s first Euros win.

Will she ever score a goal like that again? And how often does it happen in training?

“No, I don’t think so! Sometimes I’ll do a backheel pass when I’m knocking balls back but it’s more for fun and nothing serious,” added Russo.

“It doesn’t often come up in games or anything. It came up in that game and luckily it went in!”

‘I want to go on to compete and win everything’

Alexia Russo
Alessia Russo scored in Manchester United’s 6-0 thrashing of Liverpool in the WSL on Sunday

After a whirlwind summer, Russo has carried her form into the Women’s Super League season with impressive performances for Manchester United.

She has five goals in eight games so far as United sit second in the table, three points behind defending champions Chelsea, with a game in hand.

Her side started the year impressively too, thrashing rivals Liverpool 6-0 in front of a record crowd at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday.

“The competition is so high in this league. Anyone can beat anyone so you can’t take your foot off the gas which is exciting as a player because you want every game to be huge,” said Russo.

“That’s how it’s shaping up to be in the second half of the season with the points so close. That’s where we want to be, we want to be competing at the top.”

Russo’s role has also changed with England as they gear up for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in July.

Since Ellen White’s retirement, Russo has become a key striker for Sarina Wiegman’s side.

“When you perform at tournaments and as you get older, with more and more games under your belt, there is a little bit more of an expectation but it’s something I set on myself as well,” said Russo.

“In the football world, I’m a young striker. But the experiences I have had so far have set me up for it and I have huge ambitions.

“I want to go on to compete and win everything. The expectations come, but they are ones I expect of myself. They come hand in hand.”

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