Alessia Russo: “We know our standards” ahead of final EURO2025 qualifiers

It has been a short off-season for Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses, with the team now back in camp at St. George’s Park, preparing for their two upcoming EURO2025 qualifying matches. The EURO2022 champions didn’t have the perfect start to their qualification journey with a 1-1 draw to Sweden and a 2-1 loss to France, but an away victory over Ireland and then a 2-1 win over France in June lifted the spirits within the team just in time for the final two games, against the Republic of Ireland and Sweden.

Alessia Russo commented on the victory over France saying: “It was a massive win out in France, and I thought we’d put on a performance that we needed and that we wanted to do as a nation. I think that it was great to get a win and not [only] get back on track, but in a sense get our standards back to where we wanted them because we have very high standards as a team and as players.

“It was great and these two games are massive as well. Preparations have been good, but you’re right, the standard of this group is so high and it’s something that you want to be competing in big games, you want to be playing top opposition and that’s what we’ve got in this group.”

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With two training sessions now under her belt, the 25-year-old said: “It’s been nice to be at St George’s Park. I think there’s no better place to prepare for big games […] we’ve still got a few more sessions to go, but we’re all in a good place.”

“The start of this week has been nice, getting back on the grass and having a proper focus for two massive games coming up. We’re looking forward to it.”

Qualification from Group 3 is certainly a challenge with France and Sweden both sitting comfortably in the top ten of the FIFA rankings, but it’s one that the Lionesses are embracing with open arms.

Russo stated: “We want to be qualified and look forward to that and have a focus on it. This group’s tough, but ultimately that’s the goal.”

“We know what we want to do as a group. We know our standards. We know what we want out of this camp, and I think that’s all that matters going into the group. Like I said, it’s a top, top group and yeah, the teams in it are all very tough and all very different but we know what we can do and what we can control to hopefully come out on top.”

The Lionesses return to playing on home soil on Friday when they take on the Republic of Ireland at Carrow Road, with the Arsenal forward continuing: “They’re a really tough side to come up against, different to the likes of Sweden and France and maybe play a bit deeper and we find it a little bit more difficult to break them down, but that’s what it’s like in a low block or a lower block.

“They’re tough, they’re aggressive and very passionate and I think we felt that in the away game against them, but it’s great – you come up against so many different oppositions in these kinds of qualifiers so yeah, definitely not an easy test coming up.”

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On the return to home soil, Russo said: “[We’re] really excited. I think when you walk out in a stadium and it’s full of Lionesses fans, it’s just really nice and it creates a feeling within the team and makes you realise that, yeah, there’s more to it than just the football and that we’re going out there with the support of everyone around us.

“For me, and I can speak for all the players, we love playing in front of our home crowd and they’re always so loud and back us all the way.”

A huge boost to the squad ahead of Friday’s meeting with Ireland is the return of Mary Earps in goal. The winner of the Golden Glove at the Women’s World Cup last year has recently made the move to PSG for the upcoming 24/25 season, with Russo saying: “She’s someone that in the football world I look up to and she’s a big sister of mine, which is really nice; someone that I’d lean on when I needed a bit of advice and she might say the same about me – she might not. But no, I’m really happy for her. She’s a very wise girl and I know that she has been through a lot in her career so I’m just excited to hopefully go and see her flourish.”

“She’s a top leader, top person, top player. I could speak about her all day. She’s someone that you need in your team, someone that you want and yeah, it will boost the team for sure.”

The Lionesses face the Republic of Ireland on Friday at Carrow Road, Norwich, before an away trip to Sweden on Tuesday to complete their Euro qualification.

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