Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
Alessia Russo is at the top of her game and wants to achieve more.
The 18-year-old midfielder, who has already become Australia’s first female footballer to score in an international match and is widely tipped to go down in Australian football history as the first player to score a backheel goal in a major competition, has a big target ahead of her – becoming the first female footballer to captain an Australian side on their home continent.
“I want to become the first female captain of a nation, especially one that’s so progressive, like Australia,” she says. “I want to represent the country on the biggest stage.”
Russo’s quest to captain the Matildas’ senior side for the first time is one of history itself. It was only the second nation in the world to have a dedicated women’s team (England’s Great Britain women’s first association football team was established in 1888, while the rest of the country followed in 1910), but it was an achievement for Russo and the Matildas.
Her goal is a simple one, but one that demonstrates just how significant Russo is to the game. Born in Melbourne, Russo spent her childhood in India and her early teen years living in Brazil with a family friend, before moving to the UK at the age of 14.
After representing the country at under-15 level and gaining a place in the Australian team, she was picked up by an English club – AFC Bournemouth – for their Women’s Super League campaign, where she made her debut in April of 2017. In July she scored her first goal for her new side, in a 3-2 victory over Bristol City, and her goal in the second minute of the game earned her a Man of the Match award.
She went on to score nine goals in eight appearances for the south coast club, finishing the season as the leading goal scorer in the competition with six goals.
Russo is well-known for her powerful goals – she is Australia’s most prolific front-foot player in terms of goals – and is quick for a woman, with a strong left foot. But she has also proved to be adept in holding the ball in the air, and with her first goal