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Alessia Russo still sees herself ‘developing’ with Man Utd despite expiring contract

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Manchester United striker Alessia Russo has insisted that she still sees herself developing with the club in the WSL, although hasn’t ruled out moving to the United States later in her career.

Russo started out at Chelsea, making just one senior appearance for the club, before moving on to Brighton whilst the Seagulls were still a second tier side. After a spell in America playing college soccer with the legendary North Carolina Tar Heels, she joined United in 2020.

The 23-year-old has since emerged as one of the best forwards in the WSL, enjoying an impressive breakout 2021/22 season off the back of long-term injury and then becoming a household name thanks to a starring role for England during a triumphant Euro 2022.

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Russo is out of contract with United at the end of this season after the club exercised an option in her deal to extend it to the summer of 2023.

She was reported to have rejected the offer of a new deal shortly before Euro 2022, which arguably worked in her favour given how her worth and profile will have substantially changed because of her performances at the tournament.

But, despite the general uncertainty over her future, Russo said in August that was she ‘looking forward’ to this WSL season with United and is ‘loving her time’ at the club she supported as a girl.

Now, she once again appears to have reiterated her desire to stay in Manchester, even if going back to the United States as a professional holds some appeal further down the road.

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“[Playing in America] opened my eyes a little. [With Man Utd in the WSL] is the place I see myself developing in right now but I loved my time out in the United States. I got an experience like no other,” she told BBC Sport ahead of facing the world champion Americans in a sell-out friendly at Wembley later this week.

“I played with girls a few years older than me so I realised I had to get quicker, fitter, faster and stronger quickly to compete with them. In England we have more of a focus on the technical and tactical side of the game. When I went out there it was more physical and about strength and power.”

Russo isn’t the only English player to develop her game at an American college. It has been a not uncommon path in recent years, with England teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy at North Carolina at the same time, while Lucy Bronze also spent time there a decade earlier.

As far as Russo’s United contract is concerned, manager Marc Skinner has confirmed that talks with her and several others – including star full-back Ona Batlle – are ongoing.

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“We are working behind the scenes. There is never a quick fix moment for any contract conversation. It’s a much more complex than a quick decision. We are working towards making sure we secure the players that we want,” Skinner explained.

“It’s never simple. Nothing is imminent, but those conversations are continuing.”

But what Skinner has also alluded to is refusing to wait on players who are delaying signing a contract and even selling them if suitable offers comes in. That ended up the case with Jackie Groenen, who was sold to Paris Saint-Germain last month after the WSL transfer window had already closed.

“Every player can be available at any point if everything is met at the right time,” he said.

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“What I’m trying to stress there is, we are going to make sure that if players sign contracts, brilliant, if they don’t sign contracts, we’ll have people in places that our club will not stand still and always keep progressing.”

If Russo and United don’t come to an agreement over a new deal and she runs down her contract, she would be faced with joining a WSL rival or heading abroad next summer.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!





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Who could England face in the World Cup knockout stages?

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Four points from their opening two games have England in the driving seat in Group B at the World Cup.

One final game against Wales will decide whether they reach the knockout stages as group winners or runners up, though there remains the outside chance of an early elimination.

Gareth Southgate will be planning for the knockout stage, however, with a myriad of different nations standing between his squad and the World Cup final.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

England currently top Group B and a win would take them through in first place. A draw is also good enough to progress, though that would open the door for Iran to take first place with a win over the USA.

Only a thrashing of three or more goals from Wales will result in an early elimination for the Three Lions.

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England will have designs on going through the group stage as winners, which would result in a favourable last 16 clash against the runners up of Group A, where the Netherlands, Ecuador and Senegal reside. Finishing second in Group B would see England face the winners of Group A.

As group winners, a win in the round of 16 would see Southgate’s side book a quarter-final clash with either the Group D winners – likely to be France – or the runners up from Group C, where Poland, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Mexico are all still in contention.

As group runners up, a win in the round of 16 would set up a quarter-final tie against the Group C winners or the runners up from Group D.

There are a number of sides England could face in the semi-finals, but all come from Groups E, F, G and H. That pool includes nations like Spain, Japan, Croatia, Belgium, Brazil and Portugal.

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Gareth Bale responds to question on Wales international future

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Gareth Bale shut down questions on whether the World Cup match against England would be his last for Wales on Tuesday, issuing a flat “no” when asked the question outright.

The Welsh captain is his country’s most capped men’s international player, though speculation has been surrounding the 33-year-old’s future at both club and international level for a number of months.

Bale moved to LAFC in MLS in order to prepare for the World Cup after leaving Real Madrid, and while he scored an equaliser against the United States in game one of Wales’ tournament in Qatar the team have underperformed on the whole, losing 2-0 to Iran last time out.

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They need a win against England to stand any chance of making it through to the knockout stages, and are dependent on other results. Wales’ position in the group and potential fate has naturally produced questions about what happens beyond the England game if Wales go home, but Bale flat out dismissed the question with a no.

Bale did though go into detail on his side’s campaign in Qatar so far, admitting the mood in the camp was low after conceding twice to Iran.

“We’re disappointed in the results and the performances,” he said a day out from the England match. “But that’s football, it’s not easy, we’re at a World Cup against some very good teams and we’ll always give 100%. We’ve been working hard the last few days to make things better and correct things.

“We don’t need to get anyone going, just need to keep working hard and hopefully things will turn around for us.

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“I don’t feel [added] responsibility because we’re a team. We’re a nation and we work hard for each other. We need to deliver as a team, it’s not one person that needs to do anything. Of course we’d have loved to be winning and doing a lot better but the reality is, football is hard. If it was that easy we’d be favourites to win the World Cup. We need to stick together and we’ll give 100% tomorrow like we always do.

“The one thing I always do is give 100%. I was flying into tackles in the 90th minute the other day. I’ll just try and lead by example.”

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

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The World Cup has seen a number of shock results occur to date, with Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia and Morocco beating Belgium among others. Wales beating England would be a result in a similar bracket, but Bale is confident England have weaknesses to exploit.

“Everyone has weaknesses. We’ve done our homework. We’ve had meetings and I’m sure they’ve done the same with us. We know how difficult it will be. England are a very good team, They’re one of the favourites to win the tournament. We are under no illusions, it will be hard, we’re going to give everything like we always do.

“There’s been a few shocks in the tournament already and there’s no reason why we can’t do the same.”

Wales manager Rob Page hinted during his own press conference that Bale or Aaron Ramsey would not necessarily start the game against England, hinting at a need for fresh blood with Wales struggling for energy at times during their opening matches.

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Bale is one of the leading players in the camp and remains firm that the team remain together and confident of turning things around against England.

“Yeah of course we have our responsibility to help everybody,” he added. “At this current moment we are not in the greatest of positions and we have not had an amazing tournament. But it is football, it is not easy. It is difficult. The main thing for us all is that we have stuck together as a group, like we have always done.

“We will fight again. We will go on the pitch and give everything. You saw our reaction when we conceded against Iran, how devastated we all were, lying on the floor. Heartbroken. After the game everybody was upset. No one can ever question our commitment but we will all stick together through thick and thin, through the ups and downs. We will give everything again tomorrow.”



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Player ratings as Selecao book place in knockout stages

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Brazil made incredibly hard work of their 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Monday evening at Stadium 974.

A thoroughly uninspiring affair came to life five minutes from time as Manchester United midfielder Casemiro popped up with a fizzing half-volley that flew beyond Yann Sommer and sealed Brazil’s place in the knockout stages.

Switzerland made an impressive start, enjoying plenty of possession and pushing numbers forward in an attempt to pin Brazil back.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

The first real sight of goal for either team came shortly before the hour mark. Raphinha’s cross found Vinicius Junior at the back post but he can’t connect properly and sends the ball towards goal with his knee, giving Yann Sommer enough time to get over to make the save.

And that was about as good as it got in the first half.

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A slow start to the second half saw ten minutes pass before the next real sight of goal. Vinicius played an excellent cross in towards Richarlison but, yet again, the ball was inches away from being on target.

The first real moment of quality in the match came in the 65th minute as Vinicius slotted home, but the automated offside system clocked Richarlison had strayed earlier in the move and ultimately ruled it out.

There was no ruling out Casemiro’s strike 20 minutes later. The midfielder waltzed into the box and fired home an excellent half-volley which led Brazil through to the next round.

It was nearly two as Rodrygo got a glimpse of goal but an excellent block from Manuel Akanji ensured Brazil had to settle for just the one goal.

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Vinicius Junior

Vinicius thought he had scored / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

GK: Alisson – 5/10 – Shaky under little pressure but generally didn’t have a lot to do. Has shaved his moustache.

RB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Did a nice job at right-back but was usually central when Brazil were on the ball. Really composed in possession.

CB: Thiago Silva – 7/10 – Some excellent passes as he looked in control of every situation.

CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Had to do a lot of the creating as Brazil’s midfielders struggled to get through.

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LB: Alex Sandro – 6/10 – Some fantastic moments that yielded slow-mo replays, but still needed to do more in attack.

DM: Casemiro – 8/10 – Shielded his defence well and did what he could to try and keep things ticking over in attack. A moment of magic to win the game.

CM: Fred – 5/10 – Not the right skill set for this game. Did a decent enough job defensively but his limited attacking output was a major issue.

CM: Lucas Paqueta – 5/10 – Not on it here. Made a few nice passes but generally couldn’t find the space needed to get through Switzerland’s defence.

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RW: Raphinha – 6/10 – At the centre of nearly everything positive from Brazil, which doesn’t say much.

ST: Richarlison – 5/10 – Starved of service but did manage a few nice passes when he did finaly get the ball.

LW: Vinicius Junior – 6/10 – A few nice runs but sloppy in front of goal. Should have put Brazil ahead in the first half. Came to life after the break.

SUB: Rodrygo (46′ for Paqueta) – 6/10 – Focused on trying to beat Switzerland on the counter. Nice movement.

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SUB: Bruno Guimaraes (59′ for Fred) – 7/10 – Changed the tide of the midfield battle. An impressive showing.

SUB: Antony (73′ for Raphinha) – 6/10 – Had the odd dangerous moment.

SUB: Gabriel Jesus (73′ for Richarlison) – 6/10 – Didn’t have long to strut his stuff but did involve himself in a few nice moves.

SUB: Alex Telles (86′ for Sandro) – N/A

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Manager: Tite – 5/10 – Clearly exploring ways to cope without Neymar but didn’t really find one. A thoroughly uninspiring showing saved by a moment of magic.

Nico Elvedi

Solid from Elvedi / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

GK: Yann Sommer – 6/10 – Made a nice save to deny Vinicius.

RB: Silvan Widmer – 6/10 – Some early fouls on Vinicius set the tone. Made the winger uncomfortable and did a nice job. Saved by the offside flag for the disallowed opener.

CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Impressive positioning to keep Richarlison at bay.

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CB: Nico Elvedi – 7/10 – Did a very solid job of controlling Brazil’s attackers alongside his mathematician teammate.

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez – 6/10 – Didn’t have a whole lot of defending to do but looked a little too cautious in attack.

DM: Remo Freuler – 6/10 – Good energy and desire to keep closing Brazil’s midfield down. Faded as the game progressed.

DM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Similarly, led by example in midfield as he pressed with real energy and enthusiasm. Unsettled Brazil.

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RM: Fabian Rieder – 6/10 – Handed his first international start in an unfamiliar position and did a solid job, but wasn’t always comfortable. A little too aggressive at times but nothing to really complain about.

AM: Djibril Sow – 5/10 – The odd nice run but couldn’t find any way through Brazil’s experienced defence.

LM: Ruben Vargas – 5/10 – Played a little narrower to try and being Rodriguez into the game but it didn’t always work.

ST: Breel Embolo – 5/10 – Put a shift in but had very little joy against high-level opposition. Can’t fault the effort.

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SUB: Edimilson Fernandes (59′ for Vargas) – 5/10 – Red hot in the minutes after he entered but soon faded away.

SUB: Renato Steffen (59′ for Rieder) – 5/10 – Didn’t offer mich down the right.

SUB: Michel Aebischer (75′ for Sow) – 5/10 – Barely got involved.

SUB: Haris Seferovic (75′ for Embolo) – 5/10 – Chased shadows during his short time on the pitch.

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SUB: Fabian Frei (86′ for Widmer) – N/A

Manager: Murat Yakin – 6/10 – It’s not easy to keep Brazil this quiet but Yakin’s decision to start Rieder over Xherdan Shaqiri helped add more steel. Just a shame about the non-existent attacking threat.

Player of the match – Casemiro



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