England’s women’s national soccer team is one of the stronger teams in Europe. During Euro 2022, currently being played in stadiums across England, the Lionesses have performed similarly to the UNC men’s basketball team during the 2022 NCAA Tournament—minus the second half of the Baylor game when Brady Manek was tossed out. They won their three group stage games by a combined 14-0 margin. They had a miraculous last minute equalizer against Spain in the quarterfinals before winning 2-1 in extra time. And yesterday, they beat the absolute life out of Sweden 4-0.
As Matt pointed out a couple weeks ago, there are three Tar Heels on the England squad: Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy, Barcelona’s Lucy Bronze, and Manchester United’s Alessia Russo. Only Bronze, a right-back, started against Sweden. Russo was brought on in the 57th minute. Wubben-Moy was an unused substitute.
Bronze was having trouble against the Swedish front-line during the first half, and the “Blågult” targeted and isolated her during their most promising attacks. However, she made up for her defensive struggles on the offensive end.
Arsenal’s Beth Mead, the leading goal-scorer of the tournament, was in Sweden’s box after England failed to connect on a cross from the left wing. Bronze huffed and chased down the loose ball and smashed a hopeful cut-back into the box (and in between three Swedish defenders) that Mead controlled with one touch before firing in the game’s first goal:
BETH MEAD PUTS ENGLAND AHEAD IN THE SEMIFINAL! pic.twitter.com/weE5V4vccA— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 26, 2022
At the start of the second half when Sweden looked most eager to equalize, England won a corner and Lucy Bronze headed in from well outside the six-yard box, getting return service from Beth Mead:
LUCY BRONZE MAKES IT TWO!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 26, 2022
England are edging closer to the Euro final pic.twitter.com/vFuEY9U7NH
Near the one-hour mark, senior England striker Ellen White was subbed off for Alessia Russo. Russo nearly assisted on her first touch of the game, driving on a counter-attack and laying the ball on a platter for Lauren Hemp, who failed to convert. Russo would not be denied though, and in the 68th minute, the former Tar Heel scored the goal of the tournament:
WIZARD FILTH ALERT— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) July 26, 2022
Alessia Russo makes it 3-0 for England with a backheel worthy of the And1 Mixtape Tour pic.twitter.com/pjrJn9Xeon
Do yourself a favor and search “Alessia Russo” on Twitter to see all of the memes that are coming out of England. Fans are rightly going bananas over such an audacious goal, especially since it sealed Sweden’s fate, and put the hometown Lionesses in the final on Sunday, July 31.
England head coach Sarina Wiegman has named the same starting XI for every match the Lionesses have played in Euro 2022, so expect Russo to start on the bench in the final. She has substituted in five matches, scoring four goals and assisting once. Russo provides instant energy and threat from the bench, and she’s precisely what a tired defense doesn’t want to see with 30 minutes left in a tight match.
We’ll surely see Bronze start at right-back again, and if England can get an early two-goal (or more) lead and hold it late into the second half, Wubben-Moy could be brought on to augment the defense as it tries to kill the game off. Celebrations would then kick off all over England and Chapel Hill, as three Tar Heels-turned-Lionesses lift the EURO trophy.