‘Home is where the heart is’: Leah Williamson insists England are focused

  • ‘Now it is about doing our job on the pitch’ in Sunday’s final
  • Back-heel goalscorer Russo admits ruing missed chance

Leah Williamson says England’s focus is on completing their task after the Euro 2022 hosts secured a place in Sunday’s final. The England captain, who has played every game after just eight minutes of football at the 2019 World Cup, will lead the team out at Wembley in front of a sold-out crowd.

After goals from Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Fran Kirby enabled them to power to a 4-0 semi-final victory over Sweden at Bramall Lane, the Lionesses are in their first major tournament final since Euro 2009.

Germany or France will be the opponents as they look to get their hands on major silverware for the first time.

When asked about the development English women’s football has had and working towards a moment like Sunday, Williamson said: “We started a journey, and people have changed the game. That’s the likes of [former England captain] Carol Thomas, Jill Scott, Ellen White, who I looked at and was inspired by when I was younger.

“And now it is about doing our job on the pitch. That’s the most powerful thing, the biggest way we can contribute, and that is what we are focusing on.

“I know I have a job to do, but who says I can’t enjoy those moments and the team can’t enjoy those moments? That’s what I hope, that we are giving off that vibe. It’s genuine and the crowd can enjoy that with us. I hope that the crowd at Wembley is going to have as good a time as we are going to have, because I promise you, we will enjoy it.

“We’ve got some preparation to do, we don’t even know who we are playing yet. But for me, to walk out on to that pitch was an incredible feeling and I can imagine at the weekend that will be incredible as well.

“I’ve got a scarf around my neck which says: ‘Home is where the heart is’ and to have our families on this journey, to walk out at Wembley, I think that is something we really have to take in. I want to appreciate it for what it is, but I have got a job to do and that’ll be the most important thing.”

In a semi-final full of notable performances, Williamson singled out goalkeeper Mary Earps, who pulled off an important save after 20 seconds and another with the Lionesses 2-0 up.

“Mary made a save at a key moment of the game – which was an incredible turning point for us,” Williamson said of the latter save. “We then went up the other end and scored. That’s when you talk about a team, that’s what the team is about because at opposite ends of the pitch everybody is making it count.

“That moment deserves a shoutout. Everybody was absolutely incredible and delivered what they needed to deliver.”

Alessia Russo improvises to scores England’s third goal against Sweden.
Alessia Russo improvises to scores England’s third goal against Sweden. Photograph: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Russo’s audacious backheel through the legs of the unsuspecting Hedvig Lindahl stole the show but the forward admitted that she “could have made it easier on myself” as she rued a missed effort moments before.

Running through her mind after the close-range effort had been saved by Sweden’s goalkeeper was one thing: “What’s the quickest route for me to get this ball in the back of the net?” Russo added: “To be honest, I missed the first one, we were actually working on cutbacks in training the other day. I should have scored in the first place, so I just swung a foot at it and luckily it hit the back of the net.”

Russo was well aware of the goal’s – England’s third – significance. “To score in a semi-final and progress to the final is a huge highlight of my career. I don’t normally score backheels and I don’t think you’ll see one again,” she said.

The importance of her goal was not lost on a global audience watching the game. The former USA World Cup winner Abby Wambach, who scored 184 goals in 255 games said: “I dreamt of scoring a goal like that my whole life. Never happened. Alessia Russo take a bow. Go on England.”

The Australia and Chelsea forward Sam Kerr, who won the golden boot in the WSL last season, said: “Not gonna lie, that was lit from Russo.”

Russo has shone in the role as a late substitute, scoring four times in England’s five games but is not bothered with being labelled a supersub. “I’ll take any time I get to play for England,” she said. “It’s been amazing. If that’s the role, I’ll take it for sure. Ellen [White] does a great job at wearing everyone out, as does the whole team, we’re up there in terms of physicality right now. Whenever the chance is there, I’ll take it.”

That Russo even attempted the backheel reflects her confidence in her current form. “When you’re enjoying your football you play your best,” she added.


Suzanne Wrack

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
There will be nerves, admits England captain Leah Williamson
Leah Williamson said the England players were ‘not robots’ and would be nervous before their Euro 22 campaign kicks off against Austria on Wednesday

Suzanne Wrack

05, Jul, 2022 @7:00 PM

Article image
England fear no one, insists Leah Williamson after humbling of Norway
The Lionesses do not fear any team competing at the Euros, according to their captain, Leah Williamson, after a swashbuckling 8-0 defeat of Norway

Suzanne Wrack

12, Jul, 2022 @11:35 AM

Article image
‘Biggest honour’: Williamson named England captain for Women’s Euros
Leah Williamson has been named as England’s captain for the European Championship this summer with Millie Bright announced as vice-captain

Suzanne Wrack

05, Apr, 2022 @2:24 PM

Article image
England captain Williamson making her mark without having to tackle
Arsenal defender has excelled with her authoritative yet elegant play and hopes to lift country’s first major trophy since 1966

Louise Taylor

29, Jul, 2022 @12:48 PM

Article image
Prankster Popp insists ‘pressure is more on England’ before Euro 2022 final
The striker, who wore a false moustache at the team press conference, says Germany ‘can go into the game completely free’

Sid Lowe

29, Jul, 2022 @6:03 PM

Article image
England ‘can do better’, insists Sarina Wiegman after victory against Austria
The manager was happy with a 1-0 win to open Euro 2022 but admitted the Lionesses were ‘sloppy’ and ‘have to be a little calmer in the final stages’

Louise Taylor at Old Trafford

06, Jul, 2022 @10:44 PM

Article image
Women’s Euro 2022 set for record crowds as England aim for home glory
Tickets for the women’s European Championship final sold out in an hour with 100 days to go before England kick-off against Austria

Suzanne Wrack

28, Mar, 2022 @6:10 PM

Article image
Leah Williamson leaves England camp and will miss USA showdown
The Lionesses’ captain, Leah Williamson, left their training base on crutches as England prepare to face the world champions on Friday at Wembley

Suzanne Wrack

04, Oct, 2022 @5:46 PM

Article image
Leah Williamson typifies how these Lionesses understand their platform | Anita Asante
The difference between England in the Euro 2009 final and now is like night and day and success could bring greater equality

Anita Asante

02, Aug, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Leah Williamson strikes late to salvage victory for Neville and England
Leah Williamson’s late goal earned England a 3-2 win over the Czech Republic in Ceske Budejovice

Suzanne Wrack at the Stadion Strelecky ostrov

12, Nov, 2019 @11:28 PM