Alessia Russo’s audacious skill in Euro 2022 semi-final saw her join the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sadio Mane in scoring with the dazzling trick – so who netted the best backheel?
- Alessia Russo scored a brilliant improvisational goal against Sweden on Tuesday
- The England striker came on to score the third as England won 4-0 in Sheffield
- Russo’s audacious flick saw the Lionesses progress into the Women’s Euro final
- The 23-year-old star joins a long line of stars to score a cheeky backheel goal
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Grafite and Thierry Henry also netted with backheel flicks
- And Sportsmail looks at which other players have scored famous using the skill
There’s something special about a backheel.
With so many goals coming from the laces or instep, it takes a sizeable amount of bravery to try a flick with your heel, knowing how silly it could look if it goes wrong.
That makes the times when it does go in even more special, showing your opponents you can beat them with your back turned, the ultimate in cheek and audacity.
The fact England striker Alessia Russo also nutmegged Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl as she pinged a backheel into the net in the Women’s Euro semi-final on Tuesday makes it even more dazzling.
Super-sub Russo’s strike marked the third goal as the Lionesses thrashed their opponents 4-0 in Sheffield to move into their first major tournament final since 2009, and embodied the elan and panache in which they did it.
The 23-year-old Manchester United hotshot joins several other top players in scoring with the skill – so Sportsmail looks at which other stars have netted with a backheel, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane and Thierry Henry.
Alessia Russo scored a wonderful backheel against Sweden in the Women’s Euro semi-final
England striker Russo (pictured), 23, becomes the latest star to score using the cheeky skill
Alessia Russo – England
Where else to start than with Russo? After her initial shot was saved, running away from goal and with five opposition players in the six-yard box, there appeared to be nothing on.
In fact, there was only one thing she could do – wind up her right leg and power it backwards, flicking the ball back towards goal and using the element of surprise to catch out the defence.
Fingers can be pointed at Lindahl but it was a brilliant improvisational effort from Russo and drew audible gasps from the Bramall Lane crowd as the forward wheeled away in shock, mouth agape and arms outstretched.
This will be one of the most famous goals in England’s history – and quite right too.
Fingers can be pointed at Hedvig Lindahl but it was a fine improvisational effort from Russo
Sadio Mane – Liverpool
Mane’s goal is right up there as one of the quintessential backheel goals in Premier League history.
Timing his run beyond the backline brilliantly as the defence moved up, the Senegalese could only touch the ball away from goal.
With Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster racing out of his goal to narrow the angle and defenders Craig Cathcart and Will Hughes moving in, Mane used the ‘Mesut Ozil technique’ to brilliant effect.
He slammed the ball into the ground with his heel, causing it to squirt upwards off the floor and roll in, past the despairing, onrushing Foster.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane put the ball past Watford ‘keeper Ben Foster (left) with a similar trick
Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United
Perhaps known more for his dummies, feints and prolific use of stepovers in his first spell at United, forward Ronaldo was also no stranger to other moments of class.
Against Aston Villa in 2008, the Portuguese reacted quickest when a Ryan Giggs corner bounced off a Villa defender and went between his legs.
With Danish centre back Martin Laursen sprinting towards him, Ronaldo put his right foot behind his left and hopefully flicked the ball towards goal.
It went between Laursen’s legs, past Thomas Sorensen in goal and Old Trafford rose to acclaim their hero’s derring-do.
Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo made headlines with a clever backheel vs Aston Villa
Gianfranco Zola – Chelsea
When Chelsea left-back Graeme Le Saux bent in an inswinging corner in an FA Cup match against Norwich in 2002, there didn’t appear to be much on.
But the pocket rocket jumped forward, right leg outstretched, and clipped his left heel forward to direct the ball in at the near post.
Chelsea’s Italian magician Gianfranco Zola (above) netted with a brilliant flick against Norwich
Grafite – Wolfsburg
The Brazilian striker was Joga Bonito personified, and his stellar four-year spell at German side Wolfsburg marked him as one of the most skilful strikers in Europe at the time.
In his annus mirabilis in the 2008-2009 season, he scored an astonishing 35 goals in just 31 games, the most famous of which was in a 5-1 thrashing of heavyweights Bayern Munich.
Picking the ball up around 30 yards out in the left-hand channel, he turned the defender in and out, cut back inside, took another touch past a defender, evaded the goalkeeper and pulled off one of the greatest magic tricks ever seen on a pitch.
With three defenders blocking his view to goal, he unleashed a devastatingly slow and ponderous backheel, which evaded all the opposing players, trickling over the line and making the Bayern defence look very silly indeed.
Thierry Henry – Arsenal
After nice build-up play from Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes, iconic striker Henry received a simple pass into the penalty area.
Hapless Charlton defender Jonathan Fortune was touch tight, hands all over the Frenchman, leaning forward to cut off all his options.
All his options, that is, except one.
He slashed a backheel in between Fortune’s legs and past Addicks goalkeeper Dean Kiely. Miraculous.
Thierry Henry famously scored a cheeky backheel against Charlton in the Premier League
Goalkeeper Dean Kiely and defender Jonathan Fortune could just watch on as the ball rolled in
Olivier Giroud – Arsenal
Although not technically a backheel, we’ll allow this from Gunners star Olivier Giroud as the back of his heel was used in this scorpion kick.
With Alexis Sanchez’ cross behind him and having to check to meet its path, the Frenchman swung his left leg backwards and let instinct take over.
Gunners striker Olivier Giroud (pictured) won the Puskas Award in 2017 for this scorpion kick
A second later the ball was, somehow, in the top corner. Giroud won the 2017 Puskas Award for the ‘most beautiful’ goal of the calendar year for his strike.
A special mention to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s (offside) scorpion kick goal against Sunderland, too.
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