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UNC Soccer: Alessia Russo powers England into the WWC semi-finals

The former Tar Heel scored the go-ahead goal to push England past a feisty Columbia.

England v Colombia: Quarter Final - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Before the World Cup began, Columbia played a behind closed doors friendly against Ireland in Brisbane. It was an opportunity for both teams to tune up before their first game in the group stages. The friendly was abandoned by Ireland after 20 minutes, due to exceptionally rough play from Columbia.

So it went for England in the first half of their quarterfinal match-up against Columbia. Las Cafeteras were as physical as their reputation indicated, particularly right back Ana Guzman, who inexplicably escaped being carded despite two heavy tackles within minutes of each other.

England had more chances in the first half, but Columbia went into halftime with a 1-0 lead after an audacious chip from Athletico Madrid’s Leicy Santos. The Lionesses would feel hard done being behind at the break, and they roared back to level the game seven minutes later, just before stoppage time ran out.

UNC alum Alessia Russo tangled with Columbia goalkeeper Catalina Perez in the box, poking the ball loose from her grasp for teammate Lauren Hemp to poke home. Game on.

In the second half, England weathered early pressure from Columbia and took control of the game. At the 62 minute mark, Georgia Stanway undercooked a through-ball to Russo at the edge of the box, but the former Tar Heel was able to muscle the ball through and fired a low shot between the farside central defender (who shoulder tackled Russo as she shot) and the goalkeeper, putting the Lionesses up for good.

This was Alessia Russo’s second goal of the World Cup, and by far her most important. England, a heavy favorite after USA’s early exit, will look to her to keep firing in the semi-finals against hosts Australia on August 16th. If you’re up at 6am EST, make sure to keep an eye on Russo and the two other Tar Heels on the England squad.