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Soccer-Russo stays grounded and says World Cup final ‘just a normal game’


By Christian Radnedge

SYDNEY (Reuters) – England have the chance to win their first Women’s World Cup on Sunday but striker Alessia Russo insists the players will treat it like any other game, exemplifying the kind of ruthless efficiency that has brought them to this stage.

Sarina Wiegman’s side have been calm under pressure any time they have been tested at this tournament, whether it be conceding, losing players to injury or having someone sent off.

They face Spain looking to achieve a rare Euro-World Cup double but Russo, who has three goals at the tournament in New Zealand and Australia, said that the squad was shutting out the noise and just focused on winning a game of football.

“We started this tournament wanting to win seven games and that’s still the message. And this is the last one to go…,” the 24-year-old told reporters at the team’s base in Terrigal on Friday.

“Obviously we’re all aware it’s a World Cup final and there’s that on the line. But as soon as you cross the white line and that first whistle goes, it’s just a normal game.

“That’s what we love to do. That’s what we want to be doing. It’s 11 v 11, it’s a game you’ve got to win. So I think as soon as we step out on the pitch, we know our job, we know what we need to do.”

England produced arguably their most complete performance in their 3-1 win over Australia in the semi-final in which Russo and Lauren Hemp were devastatingly clinical.

And their title bid will be boosted by the return from suspension of Lauren James, who scored three goals and registered three assists in the group stage before being sent off against Nigeria in the last 16 and serving a two-match ban.

“I think everyone in this room knows how impressive she’s been this tournament,” Russo said. “I’ve known her since we were 12 and played together at Chelsea. She’s such a special, talented player…

“We’ve got so many players across this group that can come in and do the job. But to have someone like LJ back in the squad is really special for the final.”

England will need all their talent to perform in order to break down a Spain side who like to dominate possession but the real ace in their hole is the coaching of Wiegman who has transformed the Lionesses since she took charge in late 2021.

“(The) first thing that comes to my mind is that she’s a winner. I think she sets the standard so high every day in training, and she leads with real class,” Russo said of the Dutchwoman.

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Toby Davis)

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