russo’s-magic-moment-has-england-believing

Russo’s magic moment has England believing

Few would have thought of it and even fewer would have tried it. Alessia Russo went and executed it. A backheeled finish when running away from goal that not only went between two defenders but between the two legs of the Sweden goalkeeper.

This was the moment in a summer of them. England’s women were already well on their way to the Euro 2022 final but the third goal in their 4-0 semi-final win at Bramall Lane is one that everyone will remember. They have the nation. Will the trophy follow?

Viewing figures are high and getting higher, just like the noise levels inside the stadium on Tuesday evening. Imaginations captured. Individuals inspired. But this group of England players, this England coach, want more than all that. They are one game away now.

England's Alessia Russo (centre) celebrates after scoring their side's third goal against Sweden

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England’s Alessia Russo celebrates her stunning goal alongside her teammates

After three consecutive semi-final defeats, England’s progression through to the final was thoroughly deserved after a night that began in tension and ended in emphatic triumph. New questions were asked but Sarina Wiegman’s side still had the answers.

Flawless in the group stage, the win over Spain in the quarter-final went to the wire. On the face of it, this was far more straightforward once Beth Mead had opened the scoring late in the first half and Lucy Bronze doubled the advantage early in the second.

But this was still a test. Sweden are the highest ranked team in Europe, the team that denied England third place at the World Cup in 2019. That showed at times. Twenty seconds was all it took for the first chance of the game as Mary Earps saved from Sofia Jakobsson.

That came from a zone that Sweden were targeting – the channel between Lucy Bronze and Millie Bright. Another perceived weakness was set-pieces and Stina Blackstenius almost exposed that when hitting the crossbar. That was all inside nine minutes.

But there was no panic. England came through that nerviness. “We showed that we stayed calm, that we stick with the plan and everyone kept doing their job.” Those were the words of Wiegman after coming through against Spain. That mentality remained here.

Bronze had endured a difficult start to the game, tested defensively and a little loose in possession. Mead had been quiet. But the pair had the belief and the ability to change the mood and transform the momentum when combining for the opening goal.

Beth Mead celebrates after scoring England's first goal against Sweden

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Beth Mead celebrates after scoring England’s first goal against Sweden

The cross from Bronze was awkward to deal with for the Sweden defence and not much easier for Mead to bring under control. The Arsenal winger did so in an instant. The first touch was perfect. The second sent the ball into the net. Her moment. Her tournament.

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England fans in Sheffield go wild in celebration as Beth Mead fires England in front

The danger at the interval was that England would sit back and settle for the one-goal lead but Bronze’s header soon into the second half dispelled that notion. What followed, from Russo’s moment of magic to Fran Kirby’s goal in her finest performance of the tournament, was a celebration that went on long after the final whistle.

The country has its psychoses as it reckons with more than half a century of disappointments in major tournaments whether that be men or women. These players do not appear to share them despite their own near-misses. The plan is clear.

Wiegman has stuck to it. An unchanged line-up in all five matches, despite, or perhaps that should be because of the impact of the substitutes. England know their starters but they know their finishers too. Russo, on for Ellen White again, brought her best.

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England fans in Sheffield and Trafalgar Square celebrate Alessia Russo’s goal

It’s Coming Home was the now familiar chant in the aftermath of that third goal. Maybe it is. One year after the men came up just short in a European final at Wembley, the women will have their own opportunity at the same venue on Sunday.

“We still believed we were going to make it happen,” said Wiegman of that win over Spain. After four goals against Sweden and one outrageous backheel, now everyone else in the country believes that her England team are going to make it happen too.

Follow Euro 2022 across Sky Sports

Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ digital platforms will be following every step of England’s Euro 2022 journey ahead of Sunday’s final.

On the road, the Sky Sports News Mobile Presentation bus will continue to bring you all the best guests and analysis from the likes of Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett offering their expert insight. The bus will depart Sheffield and head to Wembley for the final.

Across SkySports.com, the Sky Sports App and on social media, we’ll have all the big moments covered with our previews, features, reports, analysis, plus the the Sky Sports Women’s Euros podcast with Sky Sports’ senior football journalist Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui.

And if you’re new to the England squad, don’t worry – here’s our guide to meeting the Lionesses.

As well as England, Sky Sports News and Sky Sports digital will also be covering all the knockout games as we head towards the showpiece final on July 31.