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Forward Alessia Russo cannot wait to kick off England’s World Cup final after years spent rehearsing the winning strike in her childhood garden.
This is a monumental moment for Sarina Wiegman’s side, who until beating co-hosts Australia 3-1 in their semi-final had never finished higher than third place in a global showpiece.
On Sunday night against Spain in Sydney they could become the first England team to bring football ‘home’ since Sir Alf Ramsey and his men lifted the trophy in 1966.
Russo said: “Obviously this is the biggest game, the one you dream about and means the most.
“I think it will hit when we’re in the tunnel and ready to walk out. It’s an incredible occasion, it’s been an unbelievable tournament and this is it. This is the moment we want to be in. We can’t wait.
“Right now all I want to do is go out, put on a performance to be proud of and obviously to win. We started this tournament wanting to win seven games and this is the message.
“This is the last one to go and we’re really locked in.”
Maidstone-born Russo grew up watching her brothers play for the local boys’ side in East Farleigh, where she was too young to join in but would kick a ball around on the side of the pitch.
Soon, however, the now 24-year-old was featuring for both the girls’ and boys’ teams at Bearsted FC, which meant both weekend days were often occupied with football, while Russo’s preferred school-night activity remained playing on a strip of grass at the end of her street.
It would also not be wholly inaccurate to say Russo has already lifted a World Cup.
In primary school, the summer Arsenal signing played in an inter-school ‘Mini World Cup’ and walked away with a shock victory – while representing her side’s assigned country of South Korea.
Then there were the garden tournaments where, said Russo, “we had to score to stay in”.
She added: “As a kid, growing up to think we’re playing in a World Cup in a couple of days is a special feeling. A real ‘pinch me’ moment.”
Russo admits it has not quite hit her that, just under 13 months after England lifted their first major trophy at last summer’s European championships, they could be one win away from making more history.
She said: “It’s been an incredible year but we’re always focused on what’s next. You never really kind of get to enjoy the moment. I’m sure I will when I get back and I’m old and grey. Right now it’s about what’s coming up and what’s there to achieve.
“For players, 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 line it’s just a normal game. It’s what we love to do. It’s 11 v 11 and we have to win. As soon as we step out on the pitch, we know our job and what we need to do.
“We’re aware it’s a World Cup final but we’ll just play our game.
“Everyone is excited but we’re very relaxed and chilled. It feels like a normal game to us which is great and shows the composure of the team. Camp has been great from the first game until now. It feels pretty similar, it’s another game we must win.”
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