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Hey!

England were a bit good on Tuesday, weren't they? Thank goodness! Lately, I'm sure I am not alone in finding watching them much less enjoyable than I used to. I was feeling guilty about that, as though my tiring of them during a rough patch exposed me as a terrible glory-hunter. But watching the first half away to France made me realise that I haven't been bored because England weren't winning, I've been bored because England were boring!

A lot of football is actually quite boring. Especially if you're watching the same team play over and over again. As I wrote on Tuesday, there aren't many occasions to be surprised when you're seeing the same group of people repeatedly try to achieve the same goal.

But in today's newsletter, I'm going to explain how boring can be good, sometimes.

I hope you love it and have a fantastic weekend.

Flora :)
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The Anonymous Martyr

Think that being friends with Ella Toone is the most interesting thing about Alessia Russo? Think again. She also likes films, and always orders the same thing from Wagamamas, she revealed in the latest instalment of her and her bestie's BBC podcast.

Yeah, I know, this isn’t very feminism of me. With the decades-spanning FA ban and the pestilence of Joey Barton, the last thing Russo needs is for one of her own to cast judgement on her personality.
But seriously, Less, I love it. To me, your dullness is fascinating.

If nothing else, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come. How did Jill Scott develop the impish spirit which has earned her a second career in entertainment after hanging up her boots? She sure didn’t learn it locked into the disciplined routine of a supported academy environment. It was likely born on harem-scarem nights spent in hotel corridors on tour with the Lionesses in the 00s, prank after prank after prank until bedtime became a distant memory.

Russo’s got a more professional personality to suit the more professional football environment she’s been raised in. One day, Less, every Lioness will be just like you.

Who says we can’t have a wallflower sidekick leading the line as we defend our European Championship next summer? ‘Boring’ never stopped Michael Owen, and it won’t stop Alessia Russo. In fact, it might just be her greatest strength.
Scoring one and making one of the two goals by which England got a massive win over France on Tuesday night, Russo was awarded Player of the Match and since the final whistle, journalists have hardly stopped gassing her up. One even suggested that her excellence is enough to make us forget all about Rachel Daly, who wore the number 9 shirt for the Lionesses’ World Cup 2023 campaign but has now given it up forever.

What makes a good number 9? Positioned at the top of England’s all-time goalscoring chart, Ellen White is a tough act to follow, and Russo is yet to make a name for herself as someone who bangs them in game after game. She scored the Lionesses’ second on Tuesday, but her finest work came in the late stages of the game, defending England’s one-goal lead after Kadidiatou Diani pulled one back for France. The French couldn’t score without the ball, and every time Russo received it, she refused to give it up, Les Bleues’ efforts to reclaim it as useless as an actual pig trying to participate in a game of piggy in the middle.

PE lessons are never so boring as when that one kid won't stop winning everything, and you can bet that Alessia Russo was the pain in the arse who never lost a round of King of the Ring.

At least you know she’d be sweet and humble about it.

“I don’t know,” Russo said at the final whistle on Tuesday, when a journalist asked if her performance against France had been her best in an England shirt. “I’ll look back at it.”
Ever played King of the Ring? No, I don’t mean the drinking game. Gloriously simple, infinitely anxiety-inducing, King of the Ring chucks a load of players into a limited space marked out by cones. Each person starts with a football. If you lose it, either by your own failure to control it or by your opponents’ cunning, you leave the game, and the last person standing is the ring’s KING. That is, until you gather in all the balls for another round, and the anxiety begins again.

It’s an absolute belter of a drill. Each round, you get to decide who you want to be. Today, are you a menacing little shit, going around hacking at ankles until your rivals shriek and surrender their ball, or are you someone who plays the long game, committed to protecting your ball while you wait for everyone else to get picked off?

This is the Hunger Games and you can be Cato, the career warrior who has trained his whole life to actively hunt opponents, or you can be Rue, the canny, invisible participant, who gets through simply by making it impossible for her to be found.

In this analogy, Alessia Russo is Rue. There’s nothing too flash about what she gets up to on the pitch. She scores goals, but not glamorous belters like Georgia Stanway’s vs France, and she hasn’t devised a silly little celebration like Ellen White’s goggles. Yeah, she did score the most iconic England goal of the decade — but there was nothing ostentatious about the way she smuggled brilliance in through the backdoor against Sweden.
In The Hunger Games, Rue dies by accidentally eating poisoned berries. If you’re throwing 24 children into a confined space and encouraging them to kill each other for entertainment, Rue’s demise is a failure. Quietly slipping away under a canopy of trees, felled by her own childish innocence? It makes terrible telly.

Likewise, Russo’s unrivalled hold-up play is only a thrilling watch for the football nerds and know-all journalists itching to tweet that, actually, the next best thing to Ellen White banging in goal after goal is someone who hogs the ball until one of her more brilliant teammates arrives to help her out. For the rest of us, it looks like the opposite of fun. Where’s the audacity, the flair? Careful is boring to watch.

Her goal against France was a bit cool, a controlled fall onto Lauren Hemp's cross which steered the ball onto the grass, making it too awkward for French 'keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to stop. But what Russo did next was the wrong kind of cool, calmly stepping past the flailing Frenchie, collecting the ball and jogging emotionless back to the halfway-line, intent on restarting a game that her goal had put England firmly in charge of.

"We knew it was business," Russo said in her post-match interview, as though responding to orders by Sarina Wiegman who saw 'sensible' and said, 'more sensible, please'.

In the end, Rue’s boring death is hugely impactful thanks to the Hunger Games protagonist Katniss who, mourning, places flowers around her body, rather than rejoicing at the fact that she’s got one less person to kill before she herself can make it out alive. Her public display of respect — flaunting allegiance to her friend over reverence to the cruel state who threw them both into the arena — inspires some of the people watching to revolt against the government.

So bring on Euro 2025, where one tragically uneventful centre-forward could be the key to our salvation. Go well Alessia, we will always remember your sacrifice.
💌 Do you love the Hunger Games? Do you love watching Alessia Russo play football? Would you rather watch Rachel Daly instead? When do you find football most boring?
I would love to know what you think, so send me an email if you fancy getting in touch 💌

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