Friends and neighbours of England star Alessia Russo told today how they are roaring on the Lionesses and said: ‘We are so proud of her.’
Locals living near 23-year-old Russo’s childhood home, in the village of East Farleigh, Kent, hailed her sensational backheel against Sweden last night and backed her and her teammates to go all the way.
St George’s flags flutter from windows, garage doors and even hedges in the quiet close-knit street.
And Russo’s parents, Mario and Carol, who cheered on their daughter last night at Sheffield United’s Bramell Lane stadium, have bedecked the four-bedroom family home in patriotic England bunting.
Next door neighbour Rob Jacques, 33, revealed that his daughters Olivia, seven and six-year-old Freya had been inspired by Euro 22’s joint top-goalscorer.
Shrouded in an England flag with her sister, Olivia told MailOnline: ‘She’s been brilliant, I want to play football like her. I hope England go on to win the cup.’
Proud dad Rob said: ‘They’ve become huge football fans since the Euros and have cheered on Alessia and the Lionesses from the start.
‘I’ve recorded all the games, as they’re shown a bit late for them, and they’re now asking me where and when they can play football. They already play in the garden.
Rob Jacques, 33, (middle) revealed that his daughters Olivia, seven (left) and six-year-old Freya (right) had been inspired by Euro 22’s joint top-goalscorer Alessia Russo
Russo (pictured) became a child star in women’s football before her mind-bending backheel goal helped the Lionesses smash Sweden out of Euro 2022
Russo, who is at her first major international tournament and has come off the bench to replace Ellen White in each of England’s five matches
‘It’s been brilliant seeing the England women do so well, I think they’ve inspired a generation of girls.
‘Alessia has been superb for the team, coming on and getting vital goals. She plays with my daughters when she visits her parents and is so down-to-earth. The whole family are lovely.’
Retired engineer Paul Bailey, 66, told MailOnline how he remembered the Manchester United-mad youngster playing football in the street with her brothers.
Russo now plays up front for United in the Women’s Super League, having also played for Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion as well as North Carolina Tar Heels in the U.S.
Mr Bailey gushed: ‘She deserves every bit of the success she’s now getting because she’s worked so hard for it. We are all proud of her here.
‘She was a naturally gifted footballer from a young age, she used to run rings around her brothers.
‘So when she scored that absolute wonder goal last night, it wasn’t a big surprise to me, because I knew she’s so skilful.
‘Her dad Mario used to play for the Met Police and I think is still their record goal scorer or certainly one of them.
‘They are a modest family, what you see is what you get, there’s no flashiness that you get with some of the male football stars.
‘Alessia is absolutely deadly in front of goal and I think she deserves to start now for the final. I hope she and the lionesses’ go on to lift the cup. I’ll be cheering them, come in England!’
Today, Russo has spoken of how much she is enjoying herself on the pitch after her brilliant back-heel in England’s 4-0 Euro 2022 semi-final triumph over Sweden.
Proud dad Rob said: ‘They’ve become huge football fans since the Euros and have cheered on Alessia and the Lionesses from the start’
Retired engineer Paul Bailey, 66, (pictured) told MailOnline how he remembered Manchester United-mad Russo playing football in the street with her brothers
After playing for Bearsted Girls under 10’s as a child, Russo began her career at Charlton Athletic’s centre of excellence before joining Chelsea’s development squad
The substitute notched the third goal at Bramall Lane in the 68th minute when she back-heeled the ball through Hedvig Lindahl’s legs after the goalkeeper had parried her initial shot.
It was a fourth goal for the Manchester United striker in the Lionesses’ home Euros campaign that will now conclude with Sunday’s final at Wembley against either Germany or France.
Russo, who is at her first major international tournament and has come off the bench to replace Ellen White in each of England’s five matches, said when asked about her confidence levels: ‘I’m loving it so that helps with confidence.
‘I think when you’re enjoying your football you play your best. Maybe (even just attempting that goal) does show a bit of confidence – but I’m just loving playing football.’
Breaking down what happened when she scored, the 23-year-old said: ‘To be honest, the first (shot), I should have scored – we were actually working on cut-backs in training the other day.
‘And then once it fell back to me I thought, ‘Right, what’s the quickest route for this ball to get in the net?’ because I should have scored in the first place. So I just swung a foot at it and luckily it hit the back of the net.
Local resident Dave Murray, 54, (pictured) said: ‘My sons used to play in the same team as her when they were very little and even then they couldn’t get the ball off her’
Russo now plays up front for United in the Women’s Super League, having also played for Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion as well as North Carolina Tar Heels in the U.S
England’s footballers celebrate with fans after winning at the end of the Euro 2022 semi-final in Sheffield last night
‘Of course, to score in a semi-final and progress to the final is a huge highlight of my career. I don’t normally score back-heels and I don’t think you’ll ever see one again, but I’ll take it for now!’
On her role as an impact substitute, Russo added: ‘I’ll take any time I get to play for England. It’s been amazing and I’m loving playing for the Three Lions and with everyone else.
‘I think if that’s the role I’ll take it for sure. Whenever my chance is there I’ll take it.’
England boss Sarina Wiegman labelled Russo’s goal ‘phenomenal’, while winger Beth Mead – scorer of the opener in Sheffield – revealed the players had been calling it ‘very naughty’.
‘Alessia’s an unbelievable player,’ Mead said.
‘She’s worked so hard and we’re not surprised she has scored those type of goals. She does it in training, and we’ve been saying it’s a very naughty goal, megsing the keeper with a back-heel. I don’t think it gets better than that in a semi-final.’
Mead went into the contest already leading the race for the Golden Boot and her strike in the 34th minute took her to six goals for the tournament.
The Arsenal star has equalled the record goal tally for a player at a single edition of the competition, level with Germany’s Inka Grings’ haul from 2009.
Asked about that, Mead said: ‘It’s a little bit surreal for me, but it’s not something I’ve really thought about too much.
‘I’m happy to be scoring goals and (providing) assists and helping the team. I’m just more happy about us being in the final and winning with the team.’
The street where Russo’s family live is decorated with flags and bunting (pictured) on the street in Maidstone, Kent
Mead, who last summer missed out on selection for the Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics, has now scored 20 England goals since Wiegman took charge last September.
She added of her goal-scoring: ‘I think a lot of people have said to me I needed to start believing in myself a little bit more and I am trying to do that – I think it’s easier said than done.
‘But I know my ability as a player, in the past I’ve played as a nine, so I knew I could score goals, and I’m just happy to be in the right place at the right time sometimes at the moment. The girls are playing amazing and making it easy for me.’
After Mead put England ahead having been teed up by Lucy Bronze, the roles reversed for the second three minutes after the break when Bronze headed home from Mead’s corner.
And following Russo’s goal, Mead then registered another assist when Fran Kirby made it 4-0 with a chipped effort in the 76th minute.
The Lionesses face either France or Germany in the Euro 2022 final at Wembley on Sunday, with the whole country hoping they can make up for last year’s heartache when the men’s team were pipped by Italy on penalties.
The England staff celebrate after victory in the Women’s Euro 2022 Semi Final match against Sweden last night
Russo herself is of Italian descent after her Sicilian grandfather moved to England in the 1950s.
Dad Mario, played non-league football for the Met Police while her brother Giorgio played non-league for Ramsgate in Kent. Meanwhile, her youngest brother Luca attended the University of Missouri on a track and field scholarship.
She honed her skills playing for the local team Bearsted Girls under 10’s before beginning her career at Charlton Athletic’s centre of excellence.
Dave Murray, 54, said: ‘My sons used to play in the same team as her when they were very little and even then they couldn’t get the ball off her.
‘It was a fantastic game last night, a bit nervy at the start but once England got into their groove there was no stopping them.
‘Alessia was incredible when she came on and her goal is one of the best I’ve seen in football.’
England thumped Sweden 4-0 last night to send fans into dreamland.
Ellen White of England celebrates with the fans and family following her team’s victory in Sheffield last night
Russo’s goal – the third – was the pick of the bunch. With her back to goal she produced an outrageous backheel that nutmegged Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl.
The stunning goal prompted Arsenal and England legend Ian Wright to call her ‘Lessi’ after Argentine ace Lionel Messi.
Family friend, Ben Berger, 59, who has watched her grow up in the street, said: ‘She’s always been a star in my eyes.
‘You have to remember that she forced her way into football, she wasn’t given the opportunity as much as the boys at school.
‘She didn’t wait to be asked to play football, she went in and told them she was playing.
‘And she hasn’t looked back, she’s gone to the US on a scholarship and is now playing for her childhood team Manchester United and has helped England through to the Euro 22 final.
‘Alessia is proving herself on the biggest stage and she and her teammates have really blazed a trail.
‘I hope now – as Ian Wright said on TV last night – that girls are now encouraged to start playing football in school. The Lionesses may be our first champions since 1966.’