On this day: England women lose on penalties

Celebrating the anniversary of the first Final of the European Championship for Women 27 May 1984: England women’s national teams highest placing at a major tournament.

Chaired by Alex Culvin, this session discusses England’s close defeat by Sweden in the Final of the inaugural Women’s Euros in 1984 with two England captains, Carol Thomas and Gill Coultard, and Jean Williams who is currently working on a history of the England women’s team 1972 to present – join us 11am – 12noon (BST) on the 27th May.

The first UEFA European Competition for Women’s Football, launched in 1982 culminated in a dramatic penalty shoot-out success which ended 4 for Sweden against 3 England held at Luton Town FC.  The pitch was atrocious, the match closely fought as each team tried to make history by winning, well before an official FIFA World Cup was organized in 1991.

The resonance of the Luton game was felt throughout Europe however, with the creation of the first UEFA women’s championship in the 1982 season which led to a first official Germany FR versus Switzerland, in Koblenz, won by the home side 5:1. However, there had previously been regional developments which heralded a strong showing from the Nordic countries and the outcome perhaps reflected that longer history. Sweden were traditionally strong, and  had inflicted England’s first ever defeat as a national side on 15 June 1975; England’s tenth international match.

In the sixteen team qualifying round in 1982, England were joined by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.  Each of the four groups therefore had four teams. Sweden led group 1 to meet the victors of group 3, Italy, in the semi finals. England, the winners of group 2, met Denmark winners of group 4, in the second semi final. Played over two games, one home and one away, Sweden defeated Italy 5-3 on aggregate to get to the final, with Carolina Morace’s brace of goals for Italy seeing her second in the top scorer’s table, behind Pia Sundhage for Sweden with 4 goals. Stars of unofficial women’s world cups, such as Italy’s Elisabetta, ‘Betty’, Vignotto also joined the leading scorers board. 

In their semi final, England first defeated Denmark 2-1 in Crewe, followed by a 1-0 victory in Hjorring, to take the fixture 3-1 on aggregate. Unusually too, the final was played over two legs, first in Gothenberg Sweden, where the home side were victorious by a single goal scored by Pia Sundhage, and then, on the return in Luton England, where the home side returned the favour with a strike from policewoman Linda Curl. And so to the penalty shoot out. Sweden goalkeeper Elisabeth ‘Lappen’ Leidinge kept the fourth England attempt out, and it was left to Pia Sundhage, whose international career had started in 1975 and would last until 1996, to seize her moment in history. She remembers: ‘I took the last shot. We won the final. It was a marvellous success.’

More details here.

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