Alessia Russo was thrilled to open her World Cup account as England’s attack came alive in their 6-1 victory over China to conclude the group stage.
The 24-year-old, who joined Arsenal on a free transfer from Manchester United last month, has been boss Sarina Wiegman’s first-choice centre-forward so far this tournament to fill the void left by retired striker Ellen White.
Russo netted the fourth-minute opener in Adelaide, one of five goal-scorers for an inspired England side, who sealed top spot in Group D and will now test their perfect record in the last 16 against Nigeria in Brisbane.
“(I’m) Buzzing. I’m a striker, I like to score as much as I can,” said Russo. “(It was) a positive night, six goals as well, lots of chances created and lots of goals scored.
“You’ve just got to go back to basics, work hard and that’s what I’ve been doing in training, hoping for a moment and when you get it you’ve got to take it with both hands.
“Really pleased to get on the scoresheet but more importantly we topped the group and now we’re ready for knockout football.”
Nigeria, 40th in FIFA’s global rankings, entered the competition as the top-ranked team from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and managed to outplay world number seven and Olympic champions Canada alongside number 22 Republic of Ireland to finish second in Group B and book a place in the last 16.
Russo vowed that while the Lionesses were fully focused on China until they wrapped up Group D, they will “get rested, recovered and fully get locked into Nigeria”, who will be raring to stage another upset.
“They’re a good side too, they’re a side that I’ve never faced – I have at youth level but not at senior level – so I’m excited for it, another good test,” she said.
Russo, who had not scored in seven games, has so far been preferred to Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly, the 2023 Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner.
Versatile Daly came on for Russo after 76 minutes of the Haiti match, started at left-back against Denmark and, in Wiegman’s 3-5-2 formation shake-up, took on the unfamiliar role of left wing-back and scored the last of England’s six against China.
The dominant result, combined with her opening strike, perhaps alleviates some of the pressure on Russo, who knows Daly is waiting in the wings, after Wiegman made it clear that she is prepared to make changes in this World Cup.
Pressure from the public, however, is another story.
Russo added: “I think the media worry about that more than we do as players. We just want to win every game whether it’s 1-0 or 10-0. I think it’s amazing to score that many goals, but we just want to win and progress through this tournament as players.”