EURO 2005 Women's Football News Archive
Anja Mittag picked up her first major tournament winners medal when helping Germany defeat Norway 3-1 in the Final of Euro 2005. The 20-year-old striker was the youngest member of the German squad and she told Women's Soccer Scene after the game: "It is a great feeling. It doesn't really matter that I am the youngest player, today we are celebrating the Championship and that is what matters."
Anja was originally credited with the opening goal when she initially appeared to touch the ball past Bente Nordby. However when asked if she was claiming the goal, she admitted: "No, I don't think so - I didn't touch the ball. They read out that it was my goal and I was surprised! It was Inka's goal." (Since our post-match interview, the goal has been credited to Inka Grings, which means that she finishes as the tournament's top scorer with four goals).
The attendance of 21,105 drew special praise from Anja. "It was a great crowd with great supporters," she said. "They were very loud and it was good to play in front of them."
Birgit Prinz said after the game that each tournament victory is special for her and the team. "I don't compare titles," she admitted. "It's always something new each time and you have to work hard to win it."
The German star scored the all-important third goal which finally put the result beyond doubt but she remained modest about her deflected strike, insisting: "We won the trophy with the team, it doesn't matter who scores the goals."
The Final gave Germany the chance to play in front of a big attendance for the first time in the Championships and this was appreciated by Birgit. "I think it was a great crowd today," she said. "Before that, I don't think that Germany were the most recognised team in the tournament. Sometimes we have wished some more spectators were coming to our games but it has been a great tournament - nice stadiums, good crowds and some great games."
Norway striker Lise Klaveness was still smiling despite their 3-1 defeat by Germany in the Final of Euro 2005. The 24-year-old told Women's Soccer Scene that she was very proud of the team, adding: "Nobody thought that we would reach the Final - there were a lot of strong teams but we made it. Of course I'm disappointed but we played against a much better team today, Germany are a fantastic side and I can only congratulate them."
Lise did not have the best of views when Stine Frantzen's goal was disallowed just before the interval. "I was flicking the ball on so I didn't see," she admitted. "I thought we had scored and I was going crazy so it took about half a minute before I realised it was no goal and it was very disappointing.
"At half time we thought we could still win but they killed the game with their third goal. They have played these type of games so many times before and they know how to win them."
With the obvious exception of England, Norway have been the most popular team in the tournament wherever they have played and the Final was just the same, with the majority of the crowd behind them. "I don't even know why," laughs Lise, "but we are very flattered and grateful that the crowd cheered for us. When we came here and saw Norwegian flags all over the place it was wonderful - you get shivers down your spine."
Lise is now looking forward to helping Norway qualify for the 2007 World Cup in China. "We'll be two years older and we are a very young team," she said. "The players will develop and we are very motivated, so hopefully we can reach the Finals and take the gold home next time."
Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen reflcted on a good Euro 2005 campaign and is now looking forward to their World Cup qualifying group, which begins in August. "We still have a young squad with a lot of talent which can be even better," he said, "and it is very important that we get the players ready for the World Cup qualifiers.
"I am very proud of what we have achieved but disappointed because we did not play quite as well today." Bjarne refused to blame tiredness after the extra time semi final victory over Sweden, adding: "I thought the reflexes of the players were sharp enough and they came through the game okay, so there are no excuses.
"I was quite confident at half time and thought we played the better football in the last twenty minutes of the first half. But it was too hard to come back after the third goal, against a quality team like Germany.
"The players are disappointed but we showed today we can play attractive attacking football although we need to tighten up our defensive play to be as good as Germany."
Norway striker Stine Frantzen had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside decision during the first half, which would have made the score 2-2, but Bjarne accepted the verdict. "She was offside by about 20 centimetres but that has gone now. I have been very impressed with the referees in this tournament, they have done a hard job very well."
Tina Theune-Meyer saluted her team after they clinched the Euro 2005 title with a 3-1 victory over Norway in the Final at Blackburn. The German Coach, who is stepping down from the job after nine years in charge and handing the reins to assistant Silvia Neid, said after the game: "If you look at the tournament, I always felt that we could win it, and today I had the same feeling.
"When we scored the third goal I knew we would be European Champions, but not until that moment."
Germany have dominated the women's football scene in Europe throughout Tina's spell in charge, but she does not feel there is a huge gap between themselves and their main rivals. "I don't think we are so far ahead of the other teams in Europe because they all have good young players. I thought Norway would be very strong as they are a good young team and one for the future, but we have tough minds and players who work hard and want to win everything," she said.
"We have a good structure in Germany, players have good coaches from the age of 15. We had a fantastic team in 1989 when we won the competition in Germany, we had one in 2003 which won the World Cup and we have another fantastic team now. We have been together for many years and we know each other's game and what they can do."
Tina also had encouraging words for England after their campaign, saying: "England should continue what they started. They have a lot of good players who are young and can improve."
Germany 3 (Mittag 21, Lingor 23, Prinz 62)
Norway 1 (Mellgren 40)
att: 21,105; at Ewood Park, Blackburn Rovers F.C.
Germany's dominance in European women's football was confirmed once again as they won the UEFA Championships for the fourth time in succession, after proving just too strong for an enterprising Norway side who gave their all in front of another 20,000 plus crowd at Ewood Park.
Germany were unchanged from their semi final victory over Finland whilst Norway made two changes, Stine Frantzen replacing 16-year-old Isabell Herlovsen and Trine Ronning coming in for Unni Lehn.
Trine Ronning struck the post for Norway within the opening 90 seconds, however an offside flag had already been raised. Birgit Prinz then threatened to break through at the other end, but she was foiled by a good tackle from Gunhild Folstad as she was poised to shoot.
A well worked free kick between Renate Lingor and Sandra Minnert ended with Inka Grings sweeping the ball just wide at the near post and Norway also had a decent chance from a setpiece, an Ingvild Stensland corner from which Lise Klaveness could not find the target.
Prinz brought out a good save from Bente Nordby but from the resulting corner, Lingor hooked on and Grings' header was turned in from close range by Anja Mittag for the opening goal.
Mittag could have made it two a minute later when Prinz cut the ball across goal but Folstad again made a last ditch tackle, however the Germans were soon two goals ahead. Britta Carlson clipped the ball over the Norway defence to Lingor who had made a superbly timed run and she chipped the ball expertly over the advancing Nordby.
Norway hit back with Gulbrandsen shooting over from 25 yards but Lingor was once again dominating proceedings for the Germans and she tested Nordby with a low drive from outside the area.
The weather had changed dramatically since the kick off with thunder and lightning plus heavy rain making the conditions a little more difficult for both teams.
Mittag shot wide for the Germans but Norway grabbed the lifeline they were looking for in style, five minutes before half time. Frantzen played a superbly weighted ball into the path of Mellgren and the winger marked her birthday with a goal, sliding the ball under Silke Rottenberg.
Norway then had the ball in the net two minutes later, as Klaveness headed on for Frantzen who fired a left foot volley past Rottenberg but celebrations were cut short as the 'goal' was ruled out for a marginal offside decision.
Rottenberg bundled a low drive from Gulbrandsen around the post as Norway continued to enjoy a great spell but the Germans held on to their one-goal lead at the interval.
Norway got back into their stride at the start of the second half and Klaveness was unable to direct a Mellgren cross on target. Rottenberg then failed to grasp a low Frantzen centre and the ball was half cleared as far as Gulbrandsen who sidefooted over from around 30 yards.
It had been a good spell for Norway but they were left with a mountain to climb just after the hour mark. Once again Lingor was involved, her pass finding Prinz who cut in from the left and her shot took a wicked deflection off Ane Stangeland and past a wrong footed Nordby to make it 3-1. It was the 50th goal of the Championships and gave Prinz the distinction of scoring in three different Euro Finals.
Herlovsen almost pulled a goal back from a Mellgren cross but a last ditch clearance denied her and the teenager again went close, firing straight at Rottenberg after the German keeper had failed to deal with another centre from Mellgren.
Sandra Smisek set up a chance for Prinz whose shot was turned around the post by Nordby who also had to save from Lingor after good work by Conny Pohlers. Sarah Gunther also tested Nordby from long range and Smisek miscued a header from in front of goal as the Germans finished the game strongly.
As the game went into injury time, Nordby made a fine block as Pohlers attempted to score from Petra Wimbersky's dangerous cross but at the other end, Rottenberg dived full length to palm away Mellgren's header. There were only seconds left to wait though, and Germany were the Champions once again.
Germany: Silke Rottenberg, Kerstin Garefrekes, Sandra Minnert, Steffi Jones, Ariane Hingst, Inka Grings, Britta Carlson, Conny Pohlers, Birgit Prinz, Renate Lingor, Anja Mittag. Subs: Petra Wimbersky (for Mittag 57 mins), Sandra Smisek (for Grings 68 mins), Sarah Gunther (for Carlson 80 mins).
Norway: Bente Nordby, Ane Stangeland, Gunhild Folstad, Ingvild Stensland, Marianne Paulsen, Marit Christensen, Trine Ronning, Solveig Gulbrandsen, Lise Klaveness, Stine Frantzen, Dagny Mellgren. Subs: Isabell Herlovsen (for Frantzen 58 mins), Marie Knutsen (for Ronning 83 mins); Kristin Blystad-Bjerke (for Klaveness 86 mins).
Photo - Birgit Prinz fires in a shot for Germany's third and clinching goal (Andy Shaw).
With one match of Euro 2005 left to play, the winner of the Golden Boot will also be decided as well as the destination of the trophy itself. At present there are four players who are jointly leading the way, three of whom will be on display in the Final at Blackburn.
The 14 matches played to date have yielded a healthy total of 46 goals with only one goalless draw (Sweden v Finland) and the highest scoring match being Norway's 5-3 victory over Italy.
The leading scorers in the competition ahead of the Final:
Three other players taking part in the Final are on two goals - Birgit Prinz, Lise Klaveness and Isabell Herlovsen.
Bente Nordby is the only player taking part in Euro 2005 who, other than the German squad, knows what it is like to win the UEFA Championships. The Norwegian goalkeeper was part of her country's squad which won the tournament in 1993 when she was just 18 years old and this weekend, she has another opportunity to pick up a winner's medal when Norway play Germany in the Final at Blackburn.
Norway's task is a daunting one as Germany are unbeaten in 30 matches in the competition, stretching back to May 1996 and the reigning World Champions have not lost to any other European nation in competitive action since the semi finals of the Olympics in 2000. On both occasions, the team to beat them were Norway.
Bente Nordby was Norway's goalkeeper on both occasions and she is also the last European goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet against Germany since July 1997, in a goalless draw. When pointed out these facts, she smiled and replied: "I didn't realise that."
"It is now that is important and not the past, though, and it's certainly not just about me but the squad of 20 players. We win together and lose together, and hopefully Sunday will be a win."
Bente has been one of the stars of the tournament and her string of outstanding saves helped Norway to their 3-2 win over Sweden in the semi finals. Her appearances have also proved to be very popular amongst the supporters, particulary in Warrington, but she remains modest about her contributions and is only looking towards the Final.
"After our tough semi-final against Sweden we now have to prepare well for Sunday and we know we will have to be at our best to beat Germany," she adds, "but that's our aim and we think we can do it."
Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen paid tribute to his players after they defeated Sweden 3-2 in the semi finals of Euro 2005. "I am very pleased and satisfied with both the performance and the result," he said. "My only regret is that it was a tough game and we only having two resting days before playing the best team in the world.
"First of all we have to look and see if the players are fit enough to play on Sunday, as you need eleven fit players to face Germany. But we probably played our best performance of the tournament against Germany in the group stages. You have to accept that Germany are the big favourites, but I really believe we can win this tournament.
"Solveig Gulbrandsen was very tired and we had to put her up front in extra time, and it paid off! I am very proud of the attack which won us the game - it was a beautiful goal and one my players will want to watch again and again. Sweden made it difficult for us and you can't leave Hanna Ljungberg alone in the box and she scored two great goals. But our team is a fighting one and never gives up.
"Solveig is a perfectionist and always wants the best so I told her to relax and play her game, and she did that. Bente Nordby is a very experienced goalkeeper and very secure, she made some great saves early on but I through she did very well in extra time when we were in front. Isabell Herlovsen has done very well, she is only 16 and wasn't allowed to play in the top league in Norway until last June when she reached the minimum age."
Bjarne reserved special praise for the Warrington crowds, who have shown great support for his team during the tournament at their matches at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. "The people in Warrington have been fantastic and I want to say thank you," he said. "I think they love our girls! But I hope they will come to Blackburn and support us on Sunday."
Marika Domanski-Lyfors was generous in defeat after Sweden were beaten 3-2 by Norway in an epic Euro 2005 semi final at Warrington. It was a disappointing end to her nine-year career as Swedish coach, for she is to step down from the role at the end of the Finals and she leaves the post having come agonisingly close to winning the major trophies.
"Obviously I am upset but I thought we played a fantastic game," said Marika. "This was my last game so it was a very emotional occasion for me.
"I wish Norway the best of luck for the Final, I think they can win after this. They have a wonderful team who play good football and were the better team tonight. It's all about scoring goals and they were the better team because they won the match. Our attacking play was good and we could have scored more of our chances but we did not take them and their goalkeeper was excellent.
"After the game I told the girls I was proud of them and proud of being their coach. I think this Sweden team will go on and win the tournament one day, I am so proud of them."
Norway 3 (Gulbrandsen 39,108, Herlovsen 63)
Sweden 2 (Ljungberg 41,88)
after extra time
att: 5,722; at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Star midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen scored two of the goals as Norway edged out Sweden with an extra time victory in a pulsating semi final played in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Warrington, to book themselves a place in the Final against Germany on Sunday.
Sweden could well have been ahead in the seventh minute, as a half cleared free kick was returned across goal by Therese Sjogran for Hanna Ljungberg whose close range header was brilliantly saved by Bente Nordby and Gunhild Folstad cleared off the line.
Marit Christensen did well to recover and block a Victoria Svensson shot after she had initially slipped as Anna Sjostrom crossed the ball. Sjostrom then tested Nordby from outside the area as Sweden continued to have the better of the early stages.
Nordby again came to her side's rescue with a great save from Malin Mostrom after she had been put through by Svensson's flick but Norway hit back shortly afterwards with their first opportunity, a great run and cross from Solveig Gulbrandsen picked out Isabell Herlovsen who did not make a proper connection, partly due to a good challenge from Sara Larsson.
Lise Klaveness fired a shot over from 20 yards after having been set up by Herlovsen as Norway began to come into the game more and they took the lead six minutes before half time, ironically after a spell of Swedish pressure. Ingvild Stensland's long ball caught the Swedish defence square, Hedvig Lindahl hesitated as she came off her line and Gulbrandsen chipped the ball over her.
Sweden's response was immediate. Svensson got past Marianne Paulsen on the goalline down the left and her cross was met with a superb diving header from Ljungberg which gave Nordby no chance.
Gulbrandsen was again influential in a good Norway move, breaking down the right and cutting the ball back for Dagny Mellgren whose goalbound shot was blocked by Jane Tornqvist.
Sweden were dealt a blow in the opening minutes of the second half when Svensson pulled up with a calf injury and had to be replaced by Lotta Schelin. Norway were looking threatening when attacking and Stensland saw a well struck volley deflected just wide.
Norway's good spell was rewarded just after the hour as Gulbrandsen whipped in a left footed cross from the right and Herlovsen powered a header past Lindahl to put the Norwegians back in front.
Sweden hit back with a free kick which was half cleared as far as Frida Ostberg who shot over and Ljungberg tried a clever lob which was held by Nordby.
At the other end, Stine Frantzen tricked her way past Larsson with a great piece of skill before her cross was fired wide by Gulbrandsen and Christensen went even closer when her header was touched onto the post by Lindahl who reacted quickly to prevent Klaveness heading in the rebound. Christensen, who had been a rock in the centre of the Norway defence, was injured during the scramble and limped off shortly afterwards.
Nordby was again to make a fine save as Lotta Schelin broke into the area and the resulting corner saw Paulsen clear off the line from Ljungberg and Larsson shoot wide from the rebound.
Norway were relying on counter attacks and one such break saw Frantzen have a looping header saved by Lindahl but Sweden grabbed themselves a lifeline two minutes from time, as Schelin pulled the ball back from the line for the predatory Ljungberg to slide in and guide the ball past Nordby for the equaliser.
Schelin had a half chance to win the match in injury time but could only steer the ball wide and the game went into extra time.
Klaveness sent a near post header wide from a Gulbrandsen cross whilst at the other end, Ljungberg headed a Schelin cross straight at Nordby but these were the only chances in a tight first period between two rapidly tiring sides.
Three minutes into the second period, Norway went in front once again with a well worked goal. Stensland put Mellgren away down the right and her precise cross was met with a sweet left foot volley by Gulbrandsen for her second goal of the game.
Mellgren was then denied by a superb fingertip save from Lindahl but Sweden passed up a glorious chance to equalise at the other end. Kirstin Bengtsson's free kick picked out an unmarked Hanna Marklund who headed over from six yards.
There were a few anxious moments for Norway in the dying minutes but they held on for a memorable victory in an outstanding and enthralling match.
Norway: Bente Nordby, Ane Stangeland, Gunhild Folstad, Ingvild Stensland, Marianne Paulsen, Marit Christensen, Lise Klaveness, Solveig Gulbrandsen, Isabell Herlovsen, Unni Lehn, Dagny Mellgren. Subs: Trine Running (for Lehn 58 mins), Stine Frantzen (for Herlovsen 64 mins), Maritha Kaufmann (for Christensen 79 mins).
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl, Sara Larsson, Jane Tornqvist, Hanna Marklund, Kristin Bengtsson, Malin Mostrom, Caroline Seger, Therese Sjogran, Anna Sjostrom, Hanna Ljungberg, Victoria Svensson. Subs: Frida Ostberg (for Seger 45 mins), Lotta Schelin (for Svensson 48 mins), Josefine Oqvist (for Sjogran 70 mins).
Tina Thuene-Meyer still feels there is more to come from her side as they cruised into the Euro 2005 Final with a 4-1 victory over Finland. "I was happy with the first fifteen minutes as we scored three goals," said the German Coach, "but after that we didn't calm down and find our game. "We could perhaps have played a little more directly but we finally started playing well after scoring our fourth goal.
"Finland really tried their best and the fact that they were so attacking probably helped us a little but they have played a great tournament. I was unhappy with the goal against us as I wanted to go the whole tournament without letting one in but those things happen.
Conny Pohlers, who scored her third goal of the tournament during the match, echoed her manager's comments by saying: "Everybody got a little bit excited and wanted to score the next goal but that happens. We're just happy to make the Final.
"This is the best season of my career, I have won two titles with Potsdam and I wouldn't mind a third one here!
"My mother and father are over here watching me and I am glad that they are here as it helps to motivate me. I was a little shaky about their use of the language but they are coping well."
Finland Coach Mikael Kald remained upbeat after his team's 4-1 crushing at the hands of Germany in the Euro 2005 semi finals at Preston. "We got off to a bad start," he admitted. "We talked about it before the game, that if Germany score early they are very good and difficult to stop. The first goal came when we had a corner, and five seconds later it is in our goal.
"I am very proud of my team and what they have achieved. It's our first time in a Championship like this and we have reached the semi finals - I can't be disappointed.
"We have to learn from these situations, our players now know the work we do in Finland is doing well for us but we have to work harder."
Anne Makinen, who has been a key member of the Finland midfield during the tournament, added: "All of the German team are as good as anybody else, every player could be in the all-star team and that's a pretty big step for us.
"I've been losing for the first 14 years of my career with Finland but we are starting to catch up. It's a big achievement considering we are such a small country and we couldn't ask for much more."
Germany 4 (Grings 3,11, Pohlers 7, Prinz 61)
Finland 1 (Mustonen 14)
att: 2,785; at Deepdale, Preston North End F.C.
Germany are on the verge of their sixth European title as they outclassed a valiant Finland to once again reach the Final of the tournament. The main damage was done when the Germans scored three times in the opening eleven minutes.
It was the worst possible start for Finland despite having the very early possession, a loose pass was pounced on by Anja Mittag who ran at the Finnish defence before releasing Inka Grings on goal, and the German striker, given the benefit of a marginal offside decision, calmly slid the ball past Satu Kunnas and into the corner of the net.
The Germans might even have had a second moments later as Mittag raced into the area but Evelina Sarapaa made an important interception and Britta Carlson eventually shot past the post.
Germany were looking at least a yard faster than the Finns and they were two up within eight minutes. Kerstin Garefrekes' cross from the right was not held by Kunnas and, in trying to clear from in front of goal, Sarapaa merely set up the simplest of chances for Conny Pohlers to make it 2-0.
The third goal was not long in coming, again Finland failed to deal with a cross. Lingor's centre from the left was not cleared and Grings slotted the ball through a crowd of defenders and past Kunnas.
However to their credit, Finland went back on the offensive and won a corner on the right. Anna-Kaisa Rantanen's inswinging corner was headed in at the near post by Minna Mustonen, the first goal Germany have conceded in the competition.
Jessica Julin then tested Silke Rottenburg with a header and Mustonen unsuccessfully tried to catch the German keeper out of position with a long range effort as Finland came into the match for the first time.
Lingor, who had an outstanding match in midfield, produced a superbly weighted pass inside the full back for Pohlers to run onto, her low cross picked out Grings who should have completed her hat-trick but she miscued her shot in front of goal. Mittag returned the ball across for Birgit Prinz to score from close range but the goal was ruled out by the offside flag.
After the initial goal flurry, the game went into an inevitable lull as Finland finally began to settle down and look more confident in possession. Germany did threaten on occasions but promising moves broke down with a loose final pass.
Sandra Minnert headed wide from a corner but the Germans were once again troubled from a setpiece at the other end two minutes before half time. Rottenburg failed to hold a Rantanen corner but recovered well to block Sanna Valkonen's goalbound shot.
The second half started as the first had finished, with Germany having dropped a gear from their initial burst and Finland looking more confident in possession.
Grings missed another glorious chance for her hat-trick when heading a Pohlers cross over from six yards. However, barely a couple of minutes later, Prinz found herself in the position from which she is at her most dangerous, capitalising on a bad Finnish pass and running at the final two defenders, leaving both in her wake before burying a left foot shot past Kunnas to restore the three goal advantage.
Carlson fired over from 20 yards and substitute Petra Wimbersky shot straight at Kunnas after a good run, whilst Prinz also had a tame effort saved after being set up by Pohlers as the Germans sought further goals.
Prinz should have scored her second when blazing wildly over from a Sarah Gunther cross as an end-to-end spell saw chances for both teams.
Kunnas' long clearance was chased by Heidi Kackur whose shot was saved by Rottenburg, who immediately kicked long herself and Grings burst through before her attempted chip was well saved by Kunnas.
Laura Kalmari had an angled shot blocked by Rottenburg as Finland attempted to salvage some pride but Germany still looked as dangerous going forward and Pohlers drove a shot over.
The final whistle saw Germany ominously poised within one step of claiming the new trophy but despite defeat, there was much for Finland to be pleased with having reached the last four in their first ever tournament.
Germany: Silke Rottenburg, Sandra Minnert, Ariane Hingst, Steffi Jones, Britta Carlson, Inka Grings, Kerstin Garefrekes, Conny Pohlers, Birgit Prinz, Renate Lingor, Anja Mittag. Subs: Sonja Fuss (for Mittag 45 mins), Petra Wimbersky (for Garefrekes 60 mins), Sarah Gunther (for Lingor 74 mins).
Finland: Satu Kunnas, Petra Vaelma, Jessica Julin, Sanna Valkonen, Tiina Salmen, Evelina Sarapaa, Anne Makinen, Minna Mustonen, Laura Kalmari, Anna-Kaisa Rantanen, Heidi Kackur. Subs: Terhi Uusi-Luomalahti (for Mustonen 45 mins), Jessica Thorn (for Sarapaa 68 mins), Sanna Malaska (for Julin 80 mins).
Norway 5 (Klaveness 7,57, Christensen 29, Gulbrandsen 35, Mellgren 44)
Italy 3 (Gabbiadini 8,53, Camponese 69)
at Deepdale, Preston North End F.C.
Norway won a goal-packed game and were delighted to hear news of France's defeat to Germany, which means that the twice European Champions are once again into the semi finals.
Norway were on to the attack very quickly and forced three corners in the opening seven minutes, the last of which led to the opening goal. Ingvild Stensland's kick was turned home by Lisa Klaveness, the striker marking her return to the starting line up by giving her side the lead.
The lead lasted less than sixty seconds. Italy went straight on the attack with Patrizia Panico making a strong run down the right and she cut the ball across for Melania Gabbiadini to score from close range.
Dagny Mellgren almost put Norway back in front when, after being picked out by a Trine Ronning cross, she volleyed firmly against the underside of the bar. The ball was scrambled away for a corner and, from the resulting kick, Marit Christensen headed goalwards and goalkeeper Carla Brunozzi was put off by Mellgren's attempted shot and the ball bounced on in.
Christensen was in action at the other end shortly afterwards when she denied Panico with a good challenge in the area but Norway were looking dangerous on the attack and, after Isabell Herlovsen had been fouled, Stensland's free kick was swept in at the near post by Solveig Gulbrandsen.
Herlovsen was having a fine game down the Norway left and the 16-year-old played a major part in putting her side 4-1 ahead a minute before half time, playing the ball into the area for Mellgren to tuck home.
Another rout was looking on the cards at the interval but Italy started the second half well, Pamela Conti curling a shot just wide. They gave themselves hope of a comeback within eight minutes as Elena Ficarelli's interception fell into the path of Gabbiadini who slotted the ball past Bente Nordby. Just four minutes later though, the three-goal margin was restored as Mellgren tricked her way to the goal line and pulled the goal back for Klaveness to execute a neat chip into the far corner.
Elise Camporese then produced arguably the goal of the game when controlling a clearance and firing a powerful 20-yard shot which gave Nordby no chance. There were still twenty minutes left but this was the end of the scoring as Norway were distracted by news from the other match. It was not too long though before they could celebrate their victory and the prospect of facing Sweden in the semi finals.
Norway: Bente Nordby, Ana Stangeland, Gunhild Folstad, Ingvild Stensland, Marianne Paulsen, Marit Christensen, Trine Ronning, Solveig Gulbrandsen, Isabell Herlovsen, Lise Klaveness, Dagny Mellgren. Subs: Unni Lehn (for Ronning 45 mins), Marie Knutsen (for Gulbrandsen 69 mins), Stine Frantzen (for Herlovsen 83 mins).
Italy: Carla Brunozzi, Giulia Domenichetti, Tatiana Zorri, Valentina Lanzieri, Elisabetta Tona, Elena Ficarelli, Pamela Conti, Melania Gabbiadini, Patrizia Panico, Elise Camporese, Ilaria Pasqui. Subs: Valentina Boni (for Domenichetti 54 mins), Damiana Deiana (for Lanzieri 63 mins), Viviana Schiavi (for Pasqui 90 mins).
Germany 3 (Grings 71, Lingor pen 75, Minnert 83)
at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Three games, three wins, eight goals scored, none conceded - can anyone stop Germany? The World Champions produced three goals in twelve second half minutes to power to victory but the consequences were catastrophic for France - who had been one of the strongest looking teams who are now on their way home.
The match was played in a strong wind and rain, which did not make things easy for the two teams, and the best of the first half action was reserved for the opening twenty minutes. Birgit Prinz made a strong early run which ended with her shooting wide, while, from a Peggy Provost cross, Louisa Necib tested Silke Rottenburg with a 20-yard shot which the German goalkeeper held at full stretch.
There was a scare for France as a Renate Lingor free kick was touched on by Corinne Diacre and the ball clipped the top of her own bar. Sarah Bouaddi was then called into action by making a fine double save, firstly from a well struck Prinz shot before denying Conny Pohlers from the rebound.
Lingor struck the bar, directly from a corner which deceived Bouaddi, but otherwise there were not too many opportunites at either end despite the best endeavours of both teams. France were dealt a blow as key midfielder Stephanie Mugneret-Beghe pulled up with an injury and needed to come off, and they were also frustrated by continually being caught offside, Marie-Ange Kramo the main culprit. France did come closest to scoring in first half injury time, a 25-yard shot from Sandrine Soubeyrand which flew just wide.
Germany started brightly in the second half and a good exchange of passes ended disappointingly with Pia Wunderlich slicing wide. It was at the other end though that a better opportunity was to go begging, a Sonia Bompastor corner finding its way to Diacre whose powerful shot was parried by Rottenburg and Marinette Pichon could not force home the rebound.
Pichon was again to go close as she latched onto a Bompastor pass to drive her shot into the side netting, but Germany were starting to take the game over and demonstrated their ruthlessness whilst on top.
The deadlock was broken in the 71st minute but it was not without controversy. Pichon appeared to have been brought down by Steffi Jones' challenge but play was waved on and Germany broke away. Kerstin Garefrekes drove into the area and her cross found its way to Inka Grings whose shot squirmed under Bouaddi and into the net for the opening goal.
Things were to get even worse for the French goalkeeper four minutes later. From a harmless looking chip into the area from Prinz, Bouaddi slipped whilst coming to gather, Grings stole in before being pulled down by the goalkeeper and a penalty was given. Bouaddi was somewhat fortunate to only be shown a yellow card but Lingor made no mistake from the penalty spot.
France were now in disarray and it should have been three just two minutes later. Navine Omilade sent Prinz away down the right and she squared the ball across goal to Grings who hammered her shot against the bar from six yards out. However, it was not too long before Germany were to strike again. Prinz was brought down 25 yards from goal and Sandra Minnert curled a neat shot into the far corner of the net from the resulting free kick.
Prinz dragged a shot wide from Grings' pass late on but the damage was done and the German juggernaut rolls on, whilst the dejected French players were left to contemplate what might have been.
Germany: Silke Rottenburg, Sandra Minnert, Ariane Hingst, Stephanie Jones, Kerstin Garefrekes, Inka Grings, Navine Omilade, Conny Pohlers, Birgit Prinz, Renate Lingor, Anja Mittag. Subs: Sonja Fuss (for Mittag 45 mins), Pia Wunderlich (for Pohlers 45 mins), Britta Carlson (for Lingor 78 mins).
France: Sarah Bouaddi, Sandrine Dusang, Peggy Provost, Laura Georges, Corinne Diacre, Sandrine Soubeyrand, Stephanie Mugneret-Beghe, Sonia Bompastor, Marinette Pichon, Louisa Necib, Camille Abily. Subs: Marie-Ange Kramo (for Mugneret-Beghe 31 mins), Candie Herbert (for Pichon 79 mins), Hoda Lattaf (for Abily 79 mins).
Anna Sjostrom remained modest about the goal which sunk England's Euro 2005 hopes and booked Sweden's place in the semi finals. "I don't quite know how the ball came to me but I just flicked at it and it went in," she told Women's Soccer Scene after the game.
"It was great to play in front the big crowd and very inspirational, even if they don't cheer for us - it was nice," she added. "England played very well and were very tough. We always knew that we mustn't let a goal in but I was not afraid as we have a good defence."
Anna revealed that she hoped to face Norway in the semi finals (which has since come true): "But it doesn't really matter as long as every player plays how they can."
The superb 25,000 plus attendance also had a great effect on other members of the Swedish team, Caroline Seger commenting that "it was the most wonderful match she had played in" whilst Hanna Ljungberg, who has played and scored in a World Cup Final, added that the game was "one of the most memorable of her career."
Finland 2 (Kalmari 6, Kackur 9)
Denmark 1 (Sorensen 44)
at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool F.C.
Outsiders Finland caused a surprise by reaching the semi finals at the first attempt with a victory over Denmark, who go out after having led the Group A table before the start of the match.
Needing a victory to stand a chance of qualification, Finland opted for a more attacking line up and their enterprise was rewarded with an early goal. Gitte Anderson's clearance rebounded into the path of Laura Kalmari who sprinted clear of the Danish defence before slotting the ball past the advancing Tine Cederkvist.
Just minutes later, Finland won a free kick down the right. Anne Makinen crossed for an unmarked Heidi Kackur who headed firmly past Cederkvist to put her side two goals ahead.
Denmark tried to hit back straight away and came close to doing so with Merete Pedersen having a header tipped onto the bar by Satu Kunnas. The same two players were again heavily involved, this time Kunnas turning a Pedersen shot over.
Moments before half time, Denmark got themselves back into the game as a shot from Nanna Johansen was turned home by Cathrine Sorensen and the game, and indeed the group, was back in the balance at the interval.
In the second half, Denmark piled forward in search of the goal the desperately needed in order to clinch their place in the last four but came up against a Finnish defence in determined mood.
However midway through the half, the Danes were to pass up a great chance to level the scores when Pedersen sent a free header over the bar. Finland hit back minutes later, with a looping shot from Makinen hitting the bar - not the first time she has struck the woodwork during the tournament.
Denmark inflicted late pressure as the game went into injury time but they could not make the breakthrough and it was the Finns, along with their charismatic manager Mikael Kald, who were celebrating at the final whistle.
Finland: Satu Kunnas, Petra Vaelma, Jessica Julin, Sanna Valkonen, Tiina Salmen, Evelina Sarapaa, Anne Makinen, Jessica Thorn, Laura Kalmari, Anna-Kaisa Rantanen, Heidi Kackur. Subs: Sanna Malaska (for Thorn 59 mins), Heidi Lindstrom (for Kackur 74 mins), Minna Mustonen (for Kalmari 89 mins).
Denmark: Tine Cederkvist, Mie Olsen, Katrine Pedersen, Gitte Andersen, Louise Hansen, Cathrine Sorensen, Johanna Rasmussen, Dorte Dalum Jensen, Nanna Johansen, Anne Dot Eggers Nielsen, Merete Pedersen. Subs: Stine Kjaer Jensen (for Johansen 63 mins), Helle Nielsen (for Olsen 70 mins), Tanja Christensen (for Hansen 70 mins).
Fara Williams was looking to a bright future after England's Euro 2005 challenge came to an end with defeat against Sweden. The 21-year-old had an outstanding match and was one of England's best players throughout the tournament.
"It's not just been the last week but it has been the last two years in which we have worked hard to build for this," said Fara. "We've doing doing a lot of weights and working on our fitness and it is showing now. We were looking at getting out of the group stages but it hasn't happened and we have got to look forward now and to the World Cup qualifiers, which is the next step for us.
"We've shown now that we can cope with the best in the world and we're looking to get right through to the World Cup this time. We have got great crowds here in England, and all thanks to all the supporters who have come out and watched us but it would be nice to go abroad. Obviously, we won't have as much support for us out there but it would be a good experience for us."
Eniola Aluko revealed after the game what had happened after she was struck in the face during the first half. Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl's clearance hit the 18-year-old England striker and rebounded just wide but Eni was the only person not to have known what was going on.
"I had a blackout and I felt very weird," she said. "The first thing I asked the trainer was, 'Did it go in?'"
Eni also felt that England were good enough to go through but didn't quite get things right on the night. "Individually and technically we were better than Sweden, but I do think perhaps we were guilty of playing in the wrong areas today and not play as direct as we might. Sweden play very narrow and we didn't exploit the wings as we'd have liked to."
Now it is back to exams for Eni, with her next A-level on the 17th, but she was more than happy to continue her busy schedule. "I would have preferred to do my revision in this environment, rather than go home and having to deal with it. I'll just go and my best, give my all and see what happens in August when the results come out."
Eni is very upbeat about the future of the team and the game. "We go into the World Cup qualifiers knowing what it is like to play in high pressure games, but we've shown now that we are a good side and capable of giving the best sides a hard time. The group has been a very close one with little to choose between the teams and it shows the level of women's football is moving up and up.
"I hope that what people have seen in the last ten days, in terms of women's football, has really opened their eyes and changed minds and I hope now it will have a positive effect on domestic football. Sometimes, out of a negative comes a positive."
(Photo - Andy Shaw)
Hope Powell was looking on the positive side despite the 1-0 defeat to Sweden which has eliminated England from the UEFA Championships. "I have to congratulate the girls as they were magnificent," she said.
"But we have won a lot of people over with the way we have played. It's unfortunate that England are out of the tournament but we've got some new fans and friends now, and the interest is there if we can keep it going."
England fell to a goal from Anna Sjostrom in the second minute and were unable to get through a resilient Swedish side. "The fact that the goal was an early one gave us time to come back," added Hope, "but you get few chances at international level and an error is costly.
"I'd like to play Sweden again next week if it had been possible. It was a great experience for us - they are a quality side and were very complimentary to us after the game, they're a nice bunch of girls.
"We've done magnificently well and I am very proud of the girls."
Sweden 1 (Sjostrom 2)
att: 25,694; at Ewood Park, Blackburn Rovers F.C.
England's Euro 2005 dream ended in heartbreak in the final group match despite a valiant effort to gain the result they needed against an experienced Swedish side, who took the points with a scrappy goal in the opening minutes in front of another excellent crowd at Ewood Park. The win means that Sweden therefore go through to the semi finals, along with surprise qualifiers Finland.
Hope Powell made two changes to her starting line up, bringing in Eniola Aluko up front for Amanda Barr and Rachel Brown took the place of Jo Fletcher in goal.
However it could not have started worse for England as, with just two minutes on the clock, a Therese Sjogran corner cannoned off Katie Chapman and Anna Sjostrom flicked the ball over the line from close range to put the Swedes in front.
Sweden were pushing hard for another early strike but Aluko was also showing her pace on the counter attack. Kelly Smith threaded a neat pass into the path of Rachel Yankey whose shot flew straight at Hedvig Lindahl.
Sweden were having marginally the better of the possession at this stage but a string of free kicks was not helping the flow of the game. Sara Larsson did play a dangerous cross into the England area which just evaded Victoria Svensson, although Mary Phillip did do well with her challenge.
The speed of Aluko was unsettling the Swedish defence and, on chasing a long pass from Fara Williams, Lindahl's clearance hit Aluko full in the face and rebounded just past the post.
Williams drove a shot wide from 25 yards and, from a Karen Carney corner flicked on by Rachel Unitt, Faye White's header deflected off Sjogran and onto the top of the bar as England were finishing the first half on top, roared on by the vibrant crowd. Another England corner again worried the Swedes who could not clear the ball and Yankey drove a shot just over.
White made a great tackle to deny Ljungberg a chance on goal as the first half ended with Sweden in front but with great encouragement for England.
England again picked up the pace early in the second half with Smith making a good run into the area where her cross was cleared by Jane Tornqvist before it could reach Aluko in front of goal.
Carney saw a shot deflected just wide and, from the resulting corner, Chapman headed narrowly over. Aluko shot at Lindahl on the turn but England were forced back moments later as a Ljungberg back heel found Sjogran in space but Mostrom slipped as she went to shoot.
England goalkeeper Rachel Brown then made a good save from her initial mistake, a weak clearance being intercepted but she smothered well from Ljungberg who had been set up by Svensson.
Back came England with Lindahl saving Yankey's flick from an Alex Scott cross but at the other end, it took a superb interception from White to deny Svensson a clear shot on goal after Sjogran had got past Scott and pulled the ball back.
Brown had to be quick off her line to clear as Ljungberg chased a through ball but the clock was running down fast and Sweden's experienced side made sure there were no other scares, despite the hard working efforts of England.
At the final whistle, a clearly relieved Sweden celebrated while the England players slumped to the turf as their disappointment sank home.
England: Rachel Brown, Alex Scott, Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Faye White, Mary Phillip, Karen Carney, Fara Williams, Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey. Subs: Amanda Barr (for Carney 69 mins).
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl, Caroline Seger, Jane Tornqvist, Kristin Bengtsson, Malin Mostrom, Sara Larsson, Anna Sjostrom, Therese Sjogran, Hanna Ljungberg, Victoria Svensson. Subs: Frida Ostberg (for Seger 53 mins), Karolina Westberg (for Bengtsson 78 mins), Josefine Oqvist (for Svensson 90 mins).
Photo - Faye White's first half header is deflected onto the bar (Andy Shaw).
Eniola Aluko is finding the Euro 2005 is living up to her expectations and the heavy workload forced upon her has not been a burden.
The 18-year-old took one of her A-levels on the day of the Denmark game but is not fazed by having to combine her exams with international duty. "I hasn't been as difficult as I thought it might be," Eni told Women's Soccer Scene. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It's just one of those things you have to deal with and I am happy to be here.
"It's important to go out and do what you do, even though it is pressure as there is so much at stake."
Eni admits that she is really enjoying the tournament as a whole. "All the games have been close," she says, "and that is evident in our group. The teams are all fantastic and that's great for the players as well."
England now approach their make-or-break final group game against Sweden but Eni is convinced that the situation has not altered their strategy. "Results have made it the biggest game of the lot," she replies. "But we would have gone out to win anyway, there would have been no holding back as we want to win every game we play. It's a very big game but the pressure is more on Sweden as they have to win the match or they are out and we can afford to draw."
Eni has appeared as a substitute in England's previous two games but might force her way into the starting line-up for the Sweden match. She has come close to scoring on a few occasions and, maybe, her goal will come at a vital time. "Hopefully I can score, but I don't really mind who gets the goals as long as someone does. It's important that I do my role well.
"I have learnt from the Finland game when I might have scored a couple of times but the good thing is that I am getting in the right positions."
Hope Powell has promised that England's approach will be no different from any other international for their vital final group match against Sweden on Saturday.
A win will guarantee a place in the semi finals but a draw may also be enough to send them through, depending on the score in the other match between Denmark and Finland, but Hope has her sights set on three points rather than one. "We're going to give it a go," she says. "It's looks like it could be a really open and exciting game, and we will give it 100%. But we will approach the game in the same manner as we always do.
"I said at the beginning that the group is wide open and that is what has happened. The nice thing is that it shows how the gap is closing between the top teams and the ones behind, and that is good for women's football."
A crowd of over 20,000 is anticipated for the match at Ewood Park and Hope is counting on the England supporters to get behind the team. "The support will help us, it drove us on against Denmark and the girls played really well, despite the result," says Hope.
Sweden's task against England on Saturday is that nothing less than a victory will do if they are to reach the semi final stages once again. Star striker Hanna Ljungberg is fully aware that the game against the hosts will be a difficult one but, like the rest of her team, she is full of confidence. "I'm looking forward to it very much," Hanna told Women's Soccer Scene. It's going to be a hard game in front of many people. England play very physically and we'll have to try to stand up against them and play our own game as well.
"We haven't watched (England) so much but since we last played them they have developed so much. We have seen their game against Finland and they have good players on the wings so we will have to look out for them. But we still need to play our own game and be very aggressive in our defensive play."
Sweden have been left needing a victory after they were surprisingly held to a goalless draw by Finland, but Hanna saw some good signs in the performance. "I think we were quite poor in the first half and very good in the second, when we scored once (but it wasn't given). I think we should have won the game on our 45 minutes but we didn't, so we have to focus everything on the England game and we have to win because we want to go to the semi finals," she smiles.
"We've had this situation in almost every Championship I have played in, so it's a good sign. We often get better and better in Championships and we are good at playing important games."
With 20,000 fans expected for the game, how will Hanna react to facing a partisan home crowd? "I love playing in front of many people," she replies, "even though they are cheering for the other team. It's better than playing in front of a small crowd so I think it is good for us!
"Many of our team are used to playing in front of so many people and I don't know how the English team is used to playing before such a big crowd."
Germany 4 (Prinz 13, Pohlers 19, Jones 55, Mittag 72)
at Deepdale, Preston North End F.C.
Germany have become the first team to qualify for the semi finals after powering to a 4-0 victory over Italy and the margin of victory could have been much more.
The World Champions were boosted by the return of star striker Birgit Prinz and they were quickly into their stride, putting the Italians under pressure from the kick off.
Renate Lingor lifted a free kick over the bar but Germany soon took the lead with a well worked goal. Conny Pohlers played the ball into the area to Sandra Minnert, whose lay off was dummied by Anja Mittag for Prinz who beat a defender before drilling the ball into the corner of the net. It was a hugely significant moment for Prinz as the goal took her to the top of Germany's all time scoring charts.
Six minutes later, the Germans doubled their advantage after Prinz was fouled on the left. Kerstin Garefrekes' quickly taken free kick found Pohlers who gave Carla Brunozzi no chance from the edge of the area.
Germany were well on top and sought further goals. Prinz laid off an Ariane Hingst pass for Britta Carlson to shoot wide and Pohlers lifted a shot over the bar. A delightful through ball from Carlson released Mittag into the area and her angled drive was palmed over the bar by Brunozzi and Inka Grings was also off target from a Pohlers cross.
Italy mustered their first worthwhile effort shortly before half time as a good ball from Ilaria Pasqui picked out Patrizia Panico whose shot was saved but Germany hit back straight away, Prinz exchanging passes with Mittag before her shot was blocked by Brunozzi.
After the interval, Damiana Deiana had the first attempt on goal with a 25-yard shot which dipped just over but Germany put the result beyond doubt following a Lingor corner. Carlson's volley appeared to be goalbound but Steffi Jones made no mistake by nodding home from six yards.
It could have been four just seconds later as Brunozzi made a great smothering save from Pohlers but Italy were next to go close, Giulia Domenichetti doing well to pull the ball back for Sara Di Filippo who beat one defender before her shot was saved by Silke Rottenburg.
Germany pressed forward again with Mittag and Grings both going close before they were given a great opportunity. From a Pohlers free kick, Carlson's header was blocked by the hand of Tatiana Zorri and a penalty was awarded. Mittag stepped up and her initial shot was well tipped onto the post by Brunozzi who was unlucky to see the rebound fall for the German striker to score at the second attempt.
Italy did not give up and sought a consolation, Pasqui cutting inside to shoot wide and, from a good Domenichetti pass, Panico's shot was blocked by Rottenburg and Valentina Boni chipped the rebound just over the bar. Elisabetta Tona headed a Deiana free kick wide from close range but a goal was not to come.
Germany: Silke Rottenburg, Kerstin Stegemann, Ariane Hingst, Steffi Jones, Sandra Minnert, Britta Carlson, Kirstin Garefrekes, Conny Pohlers, Birgit Prinz, Renate Lingor, Anja Mittag. Subs: Inka Grings (for Stegemann 19 mins), Pia Wunderlich (for Lingor 60 mins), Sandra Smisek (for Mittag 76 mins).
Italy: Carla Brunozzi, Giola Masia, Tatiana Zorri, Sara Di Filippo, Elisabetta Tona, Viviana Schiavi, Pamela Conti, Elena Ficarelli, Patrizia Panico, Elisa Camporese, Ilaria Pasqui. Subs: Damiana Deiana (for Schiavi 45 mins), Giulia Domenichetti (for Conti 51 mins), Valentina Boni (for Zorri 73 mins).
at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool F.C.
The Group A table has been blown wide open and all four teams can still qualify for the semi finals after Sweden were held to a goalless draw by a determined Finland side at Blackpool.
Swedish coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors recalled the experienced Malin Andersson to the side along with Therese Sjogran, in place of Caroline Seger and Frida Ostberg. Finland made one change to the side narrowly beaten by England, with Heidi Kackur replacing Jessica Thorn.
For the second match running, Sweden started strongly and a Hanna Ljungberg back heel caught out the Finnish defence and Victoria Svensson threaded a through ball to Malin Mostrom who was denied by the onrushing Satu Kunnas.
Finland did not create an opportunity until midway through the first half when Anne Makinen fired over after exchanging passes with Anna-Kaisa Rantanen. Sweden meanwhile were finding it tough to break down the Finns and came closest to scoring from a free kick, which Andersson lifted over the bar.
After the break, Sweden stepped up the play again and thought they had taken the lead just after the hour mark as substitute Josephine Oqvist found the net but her celebrations were cut short as Kristin Bengtsson had been penalised for a foul throw.
As the game wore on, Sweden pressed hard for the goal they craved but Finland stood firm. Bengtsson saw a shot blocked whilst Svensson and Oqvist both went close and Bengtsson almost broke the deadlock with a cross which struck the post but Finland held on for a valuable point to keep their campaign alive.
Both teams will go into their respective matches against England and Denmark needing nothing less than a victory to stand a chance of reaching the semi finals. There could be plenty more twists and turns to come...
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl, Therese Sjogran, Jane Tornqvist, Hanna Marklund, Kristin Bengtsson, Malin Mostrom, Sara Larsson, Lotta Schelin, Malin Andersson, Hanna Ljungberg, Victoria Svensson.
Finland: Satu Kunnas, Petra Vaelma, Jessica Julin, Sanna Valkonen, Tiina Salmen, Evelina Sarapaa, Anne Makinen, Minna Mustonen, Laura Kalmari, Anna-Kaisa Rantanen, Heidi Kackur.
Merete Pedersen admitted after the game that Denmark had had the rub of the green in their 2-1 victory over England. "We played very badly and England played very well and deserved to win," she said. "We were lucky to get the three points but we're still happy about it."
The Danish striker also remained modest about her equaliser from a spectacular free kick: "I looked at the goalkeeper and there was a little space, so I aimed for it and found it."
"It was fantastic to play here in front of so many people," she added. "The crowd were noisy and so good for England. We don't get so many for home matches in Denmark, usually about 2,000."
Denmark coach Peter Bonde was understandably delighted after his team came from behind to beat England 2-1. "I told the players at half time that if we can play as awful as that and still win, we can do anything," he said.
"I was not surprised that we went on and won after the equaliser, but very happy. There is great mental strength in the team and they did very well to come back and win the game."
Bonde also had words of encouragement for England. "They can still go through - in Karen Carney, Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith they have three of the best players in the tournament and if they play well, England can beat anyone."
Whilst disappointed with the result, Hope Powell had nothing but praise for her team's performance in their unlucky 2-1 defeat to Denmark in their second Euro 2005 group match.
"Credit to Denmark, they came back in it but I thought we played very, very well, the girls were magnificent," she said. "We've got to look forward now.
"We've got another game to go and that's what we'll be working on from now."
Hope was also unsure about the controversial free kick decision which led to Denmark's equalising goal, commenting: "From where I was, it looked as though Fara (Williams) won the ball but that's the referee's decision. To be fair, it was a brilliant free kick."
England 1 (Williams pen 52)
Denmark 2 (Pedersen 79, Sorensen 88)
att: 14,695; at Blackburn Rovers F.C.
England now need to draw their final match against Sweden in order to qualify for the semi finals after two late goals gave Denmark a vital win in front of over 14,000 fans at Ewood Park. The defeat was a cruel one on the English side who had been the better side for most of the match.
Hope Powell opted for an unchanged side from that which won against Finland with Kelly Smith and Faye White both being passed fit to play.
England were on the attack early on but there was a big scare as Kelly Smith left the field with an injury and did not return for several minutes. The resulting free kick, taken by Fara Williams, deflected into the path of Katie Chapman who stabbed her shot wide.
Denmark then went on the offensive and had loud shouts for a penalty turned down as Chapman appeared to trip Nanna Johansen in the area.
Karen Carney was released by a fine pass from Williams but unfortunately trod on the ball with only one defender to beat, she retained possession and tried to keep the attack going and the chance was lost, whilst Rachel Yankey made a strong burst into the area and hurdled a tackle from Mariann Knudsen but sent her cross straight at Tine Cederkvist.
Denmark had threatened little in the opening twenty minutes but had the game's first shot on target, a free kick from Johanna Rasmussen which was headed straight at Jo Fletcher by Merete Pedersen. At the other end, a Yankey free kick picked out Faye White but she could not get enough power on her header and it looped to Cederkvist.
England were given a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 35th minute as Yankey seized onto a loose ball and clipped a neat pass over the head of Gitte Andersen to an unmarked Amanda Barr but she hurriedly steered her header wide of the goal from just inside the area.
Smith lifted a shot just wide from 20 yards as England continued to have marginally the better of things before England passed up another glorious opportunity as Smith touched an Alex Scott cross into the path of Carney who beat one defender before electing to pass to Yankey who blazed her shot wildly wide from an angle. This was the last chance of the first half as it finished with the scoreline goalless.
The limping Smith needed to be replaced at half time with Vicky Exley coming on for her first appearance of the tournament.
Six minutes after the restart, England were given a glorious chance to take the lead as Carney made a superb weaving run before releasing Yankey on the left, she made her way into the area where she was pulled down by Knudsen and a penalty was awarded. With Smith off the pitch, Williams stepped up in her place and coolly sidefooted her shot into the corner of the net to give England the lead.
Photo: Fara Williams puts England ahead from the penalty spot (Andy Shaw)
England were now rampant and, after a great piece of skill from Yankey to beat Knudsen, her far post cross was laid off by Carney, dummied by Barr and Exley's shot was brilliantly saved by Cederkvist.
Cathrine Sorensen sent a header straight at Fletcher as Denmark tried to reply and Rachel Unitt did well to head away a dangerous cross from substitute Lene Jensen.
Exley drove a 25-yard effort just wide as England still looked sharp on the attack, which they hoped to bolster with the introduction of Eniola Aluko as substitute, fresh from having taken an A-level exam earlier in the day.
Aluko was involved early after a Carney cross was half cleared into her path but her shot was blocked by Andersen. However England should have been two ahead as Yankey returned a corner into the area at the second attempt, Unitt and White both raced in but Unitt turned the ball over the bar from point blank range.
Pedersen went close to a leveller with a 30-yard free kick which dipped just over the bar but this only proved to be a warning of what was to come. Williams was penalised for a foul a yard outside the area, despite appearing to win the ball in her challenge, and this time Pedersen curled a delightful shot past Fletcher and into the top corner to equalise with eleven minutes left.
Rasmussen shot over from another Danish free kick three minutes later and Tanja Christensen curled a shot wide after good work from Jensen as England suddenly found themselves hanging on against a Danish side which had been revitalised by their two substitutions.
Denmark then struck a late blow after winning another free kick on the right near the corner flag. Johansen's initial kick was charged down by Yankey but she returned the ball across and, with the England defence caught flat footed, an unmarked Sorensen stole in to head past Fletcher from six yards.
England tried to hit back with a Carney free kick bobbling around the Danish area and Exley's shot was deflected over. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Chapman who volleyed over and that proved to be England's last chance.
England: Jo Fletcher, Alex Scott, Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Faye White, Mary Phillip, Karen Carney, Fara Williams, Amanda Barr, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey. Subs: Vicky Exley (for Smith 45 mins), Eniola Aluko (for Barr 64 mins).
Denmark: Tine Cederkvist, Bettina Falk, Katrine Pedersen, Gitte Andersen, Mariann Knudsen, Louise Hansen, Cathrine Sorensen, Anne Dot Eggers-Neilsen, Merete Pedersen, Johanna Rasmussen, Nanna Johansen. Subs: Lene Jensen (for Johansen 57 mins), Tanja Christensen (for Nielsen 70 mins).
England captain Faye White says that her side will be going all out for victory when they take on Denmark in their second Euro 2005 group match at Blackburn tonight. Following Sunday's results, a win would guarantee England a place in the semi finals and a draw would not be a bad result, but Faye has her eyes focused on three more points. "You go into every game wanting to win," she says, "you won't settle for anything less. It's going to be a big contest for us and it should be a good game.
"Each game will get harder as the group goes on, and indeed the tournament goes on. Denmark have got a lot to play for, and so have we."
Faye came off with injury near the end of the 3-2 victory over Finland, to be replaced by Lindsay Johnson, but she declared herself fit for the Denmark clash, saying: "I was struggling a little at the end. I got a knock and it was vital that someone with fresh legs came on instead. But I am okay now."
Looking back at the Finland match, Faye revealed what is was like to play in front of more than 29,000 England supporters. "I have actually played in front of bigger crowds on a couple of occasions, but that was when the crowd were against you," she says. "However this time they were right behind us and it was an incredible feeling. As you get the ball and go forward, you can feel the crowd swell and it gives you great encouragement.
"People keep asking me how it felt to lead the team out in front of so many England fans and it is not so easy to say. At the time, you try not to think about it because you are focused on the game but to hear the noise and the support before the game is a moment that will always stay with me."
Alex Scott reflected on England's 3-2 victory over Finland to open up their Euro 2005 group and feels that there is more to come from the side.
"Knowing that there was a bit more at stake gave us that bit more pressure in the game," she admitted. "But we went into the game with the same preparations as ever."
Alex paid tribute to the record crowd of 29,092 and the support they gave to the team - particularly when Laura Kalmari scored a late equaliser. "The crowd were amazing, fantastic," she said. "Seeing all those fans really gives us a buzz. They really lifted us when it was 2-2 and gave us the belief that we could still win.
"I hope they will give us the same on Wednesday (against Denmark) and hopefully we'll get the win we want."
Mary Phillip echoed Alex' sentiments but remained typically level headed. "At 2-2 we hung our heads for a couple of seconds but we heard the crowd and it lifted us and we showed great character," she said.
"There was great apprehension and tension before the game but we kept our heads well. There are still a few things to work on but hopefully the win will settle us down.
"We were unhappy at letting the lead slip but we got a result and we can take great heart from that."
Looking forward to Wednesday night's game with Denmark, Mary admitted: "We know little bits about them from playing them before and that they are a strong, physical side.
"We beat them 2-0 in a friendly last year but it will be a totally different game from when we played them the last time."
France 3 (Lattaf 16, Pichon 19,29)
Italy 1 (Di Filippo 83)
at Preston North End F.C.
France underlined their credentials with a clinical performance and three goals within fifteen first half minutes saw them to an opening victory over Italy at Deepdale.
There was an early opportunity for Italy as Ilaria Pasqui latched onto a pass from Patrizia Panico before sending in a shot which was saved by Sarah Bouaddi in the French goal.
On 16 minutes, France opened the scoring with a fine goal. Sandrine Soubeyrand picked the ball up in midfield and chipped a neat pass over the Italian defence for Hoda Lattaf to bury a firm shot past Carla Brunozzi.
Three minutes later, Sandrine Dusang broke down the right and her far post cross picked out Lattaf whose shot was headed off the line by Elisabetta Tona. Lattaf promptly hit the bar with the rebound but Pichon was on hand to tuck the loose ball home.
With Italy reeling from the double setback, the French struck again just before the half hour as Soubeyrand intercepted a pass and struck the bar with a 20-yard shot and once again, the predatory Pichon followed up to score from the rebound.
Lattaf almost added a fourth in first half injury time with a curling left foot shot from 20 yards which came back off the bar, but Italy passed up a great chance to pull a goal back moments later as they broke away and Panico crossed for Tatiana Zorri who hit the side netting from six yards.
In the second half, the pattern continued with France still looking the more likely to add to their tally. Sonia Bompastor fired over from 20 yards and the excellent Soubeyrand headed just wide from a Bompastor corner. Sara Di Filippo sent a long range effort over the bar at the other end but Lattaf passed up a good chance for her second goal as she headed a Bompastor cross past the post. Soubeyrand then hit the bar for the second time in the match with a powerful 30-yard shot as France still dominated.
Italy tried to rally and went close through Melania Gabbiadini who headed wide from a Pasqui cross, but their efforts were rewarded with a well taken goal seven minutes from time. Panico spread the ball wide to Elisa Camporese who clipped a good pass into the area for Di Filippo to guide the ball past Bouaddi on the half volley, to give her side a lifeline.
There were no more scares for France though, and Soubeyrand saw a free kick saved by Brunozzi deep into injury time.
France: Sarah Bouaddi, Sandrine Dusang, Elise Bussaglia, Laura Georges, Corinne Diacre, Sandrine Soubeyrand, Stephanie Mugheret-Beghe, Sonia Bompastor, Marinette Pichon, Hoda Lattaf, Anne Laure Casseleux. Subs: Elodie Thomis (for Lattaf 72 mins), Camille Abily (for Pichon 84 mins), Peggy Provost (for Dusang 90 mins).
Italy: Carla Brunozzi, Pamela Conti, Tatiana Zorri, Sara Di Filippo, Elisabetta Tona, Giola Masia, Chiara Gazzoli, Viviana Schiavi, Patrizia Panico, Elisa Camporese, Ilaria Pasqui. Subs: Elena Ficarelli (for Masia 41 mins), Melania Gabbiadini (for Gazzoli 45 mins), Giulia Domenichetti (for Conti 68 mins).
Germany 1 (Pohlers 61)
at the Halliwell James Stadium, Warrington
Germany began the defence of their title with a victory but it was a hard earned success over a determined Norway side in a tight game at Warrington.
Birgit Prinz failed to make the starting line up due to a thigh injury, meaning that Anja Mittag came in to partner Conny Pohlers up front.
Caution was the name of the game during the early stages with Germany having the first attempt on goal after eight minutes, Mittag sending in a shot which was saved by Bente Nordby. Powerful full back Kirstin Stegemann then made a strong run down the right before her cross was sliced over by Renate Lingor.
Norway's first threat on goal came by way of an ambitious 35-yard lob from Ingrid Stensland, which caught Silke Rottenburg off her line but drifted inches wide of the goal.
The remainder of the first half saw Norway play marginally the better football but they found it difficult to find a way through the strong German rearguard. Germany themselves were also struggling to create chances although a fine move just before half time saw Navina Omilade slide a pass inside the full back and into the path of Pohlers whose cross was volleyed wide at the far post by Kerstin Garefrekes.
The first half had been entertaining but the play opened up more in the second, with more action in the penalty areas. Germany were first to show with Garefrekes' cross being miscued by Marianne Paulsen and Inka Grings shot wide from ten yards.
Norway hit back with Solveig Gulbrandsen releasing Trine Ronning on the left, her cross picked out Dagny Mellberg who fired wide from an angle.
Omilade was spreading some fine passes from midfield and she almost created a goal when releasing Pohlers on the left hand edge of the area, Nordby got a hand to her shot and Marit Christensen hacked the ball clear from in front of goal.
Norway began to grow in confidence and a Stine Frantzen volley was deflected just wide, with Rottenburg scrambling. Gulbrandsen was having an increasing influence on the game in midfield and a superbly weighted pass released Mellberg down the right, she cut the ball across goal towards Frantzen but Ariane Hingts made a superb last ditch tackle to deny her a certain goal.
Just as Norway enjoyed their best spell of the game, Germany opened the scoring. Omilade's pass out to the left was not cut out by Paulsen and Pohlers cut in before sending her shot past Nordby and in off the far post.
Nordby made a good low save at the feet of Pohlers after a good run and cross from Mittag but Germany were now concentrating on keeping things tight at the back as Norway pressed forward. It took a fine diving save from Rottenburg to preserve their lead as Mellgren met Ronning's free kick with a firm downward header.
At the other end, Petra Wimbersky flashed a 25-yard drive just wide but Norway continued to attack with Gulbrandsen volleying over after a Lisa Klaveness cross had been half cleared. Ronning tested Rottenburg with a free kick in the dying minutes but Germany closed the game out for three important points.
Germany: Silke Rottenburg, Kerstin Stegemann, Ariane Hingts, Steffi Jones, Sandra Minnert, Inka Grings, Kerstin Garefrekes, Navina Omilade, Conny Pohlers, Renate Lingor, Anja Mittag. Subs: Britta Carlson (for Omilade 61 mins), Sandra Smisek (for Grings 70 mins), Petra Wimbersky (for Pohlers 79 mins).
Norway: Bente Nordby, Marianne Paulsen, Gunhild Folstad, Ingrid Stensland, Ane Stangeland, Marit Christensen, Trine Ronning, Solveig Gulbrandsen, Stine Frantzen, Unni Lehn, Dagny Mellberg. Subs: Lise Klaveness (for Lehn 65 mins), Isabell Herlovsen (for Frantzen 82 mins).
Hope Powell admitted that her players were very nervous at the start of England's 3-2 victory over Finland in their opening Euro 2005 match at the City of Manchester Stadium.
"Obviously I am pleased with the three points and that's the main thing," she said after the game. "But we didn't play our best and I put it down to nerves.
"I wasn't best pleased when their second goal went in as it was such a sloppy goal to concede but again we showed resilience and turned it around. I'm overjoyed with that, but not overjoyed with the performance."
Hope was full of praise for winning goalscorer Karen Carney, as well as Kelly Smith for her fine first half display. "I'm chuffed to bits for Karen," she said. "She remained calm and composed and picked her spot, and I could see it was going in as soon as she struck it.
"We have to make sure that Kelly is okay and she gave us 45 great minutes before she had to come off."
Finland Coach Mikael Kald rued the two goals his side conceded in the first half but was happy with their fightback. "We made stupid mistakes during the first half but I'm very proud of my team, and I think people back home in Finland will be proud of their team. The team is mentally strong and there is a good spirit among them."
Mikael admitted that he was unhappy with the second England goal, awarded to Amanda Barr, had been given as he felt it had not crossed the line but added: "It's all over now."
Anne Makinen had been a major part of Finland's second half performance and she said: "When we got our second goal, I thought that we were the team pressuring their goal at that time. It was a shame when they scored such a scrappy goal.
"Kelly Smith gave a great individual performance in the first half. She is one of the best players in the world, give her room and she will take advantage of it, as you saw with the second goal."
England 3 (Valkonen og 17, Barr 40, Carney 89)
Finland 2 (Rantanen 56, Kalmari 88)
att: 29,092; at the City of Manchester Stadium
A calm finish from star young winger Karen Carney in the dying minutes gave England a winning start to Euro 2005, just moments after it looked as though Finland had snatched a draw from being two goals behind in front of a huge crowd of 29,092 - a record for a women's match in Europe.
Hope Powell opted to play Carney on the right in her starting line up as well as a recall for star player Kelly Smith, to play just behind Amanda Barr up front.
The opening exchanges of the game were understandably very cagey with both sides happy to take possession. However it didn't take too long for Smith to produce a great piece of skill, a swift turn followed by a cross which was just too high for Barr.
From the resulting corner, Rachel Unitt sliced a shot from the area which spun and dipped viciously towards goal and it took a punch from Satu Kunnas to clear, under pressure from Faye White.
England were beginning to step up the pace and, after Katie Chapman released Carney on the left, the young winger whipped in a cross from which Smith's header appeared to be deflected wide, although a goal kick was given.
It wasn't too long though until England's good spell brought its reward. After Carney had been brought down on the left, she picked herself up to drive in a low free kick which cannoned off Sanna Valkonen and into her own net to give England the lead.
Fara Williams was off target with an attempted lob shortly afterwards but Finland should really have been level as Anna-Kalsa Rantanen's harmless looking cross was headed away by Mary Phillip but Fletcher had raced off her line to try and collect and Anne Makinen headed the loose ball onto the bar.
There was another scare for England as a dangerous Makinen free kick bounced across the area with no-one on hand to touch in and the Finnish midfielder also headed wide from a corner.
Chapman was unable to divert a Yankey free kick on target but England were to strike another blow before half time. Smith picked up possession and raced past two Finnish defenders before drilling a left foot shot against the bar, but Barr was on hand to score with a looping header from the rebound. Kunnas clawed the ball away but the assistant immediately flagged for a goal and England were two ahead.
Smith fired a shot just wide after some good work from Phillip but England were more than pleased with their two-goal lead at the interval.
England were forced into a half time substitution with Emily Westwood replacing Smith and they threatened early with Kunnas having to palm a Yankey cross past the post but Finland were back in the game just eleven minutes after the restart.
A clearance from Unitt was picked up by Makinen whose low pass across the edge of the area was pounced on by Rantanen who planted a right foot shot past Fletcher and into the corner of the net.
England were sorely missing the controlling influence of Smith whilst Finland, with Makinen prompting matters in midfield, continued to raise their game. Rantanen saw a shot deflected wide for a corner as Finland began to sense an equaliser and they were handed an opportunity when Faye White was penalised for a foul on Laura Kalmari just outside the area but Makinen lifted her free kick over the bar.
England came close to a third goal as Carney's far post free kick was headed back across goal by White but Jessica Julin cleared to deny Westwood a chance, and moments later Carney went even closer with an inswinging free kick which was palmed over by Kunnas.
Substitute Eniola Aluko had a great chance to sew it up seven minutes from time when released through on goal by Chapman's pass. The striker tried to take it round Kunnas but the Finnish goalkeeper did well to take the ball off her. Aluko immediately latched onto another pass and outpaced the Finnish defence but this time her shot was fingertipped past the post by Kunnas.
However it looked disastrous for England with just two minutes left on the clock as they conceded a sloppy goal. Rantonen's cross saw a mix-up between Unitt and Fletcher and Kalmari was on hand to head home to level the scores.
England went straight back on the attack, Carney sliding a delightful through pass into the path of Aluko, Kunnas again saved well from her shot but the loose ball ran out to Carney who coolly sidefooted home from 15 yards and England were back in front again.
After a few nervous moments as Finland piled forward, England regained their calm to run down the clock at the other end to give them the winning start they needed. With the other group match ending in a draw, a victory over Denmark on Wednesday would guarantee them a place in the semi finals.
England: Jo Fletcher, Alex Scott, Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Faye White, Mary Phillip, Karen Carney, Fara Williams, Amanda Barr, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey. Subs: Emily Westwood (for Smith 45 mins), Eniola Aluko (for Barr 72 mins), Lindsay Johnson (for White 84 mins),
Finland: Satu Kunnas, Petra Vaelma, Jessica Julin, Sanna Valkonen, Tiina Salmen, Evelina Sarapaa, Anne Makinen, Jessica Thorn, Laura Kalmari, Anna-Kalsa Rantanen, Heidi Kackur. Subs: Minna Mustonen (for Thorn 74 mins), Sanna Talonen (for Kackur 80 mins),
Sweden 1 (Ljungberg 19)
Denmark 1 (Rasmussen 29)
at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
Honours finished even as the first of the all-Scandinavian matches in Group A ended in a 1-1 draw between Sweden and Denmark at Blackpool.
The Swedes started well and took a 19th minute lead as a shot from Malin Mostrom deflected into the path of Hanna Ljungberg and she made no mistake.
However, the lead only lasted for ten minutes as Denmark equalised through a firm drive from Johanna Rasmussen just before the half hour mark.
Full report to follow...
Star striker Birgit Prinz may be forced to miss Germany's opening match in Euro 2005 against Norway on Monday.
The 27-year-old, twice voted the FIFA World Player of the Year, suffered a thigh injury during the first half whilst playing in the German Cup Final for Frankfurt against Potsdam, and was substituted straight away.
Birgit Prinz is jointly the German leading goalscorer of all time with 83 international goals and she is expected to break the record during the Championships, but she faces a race against time to be fit as they begin the defence of their crown at Warrington.
Germany have received another blow with the news that back-up goalkeeper Ulrike Schmetz will miss the tournament with a shoulder injury, and she has been replaced in the squad by Ursula Holl.
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