Five great women’s EURO knockout matches | UEFA Women’s EURO
After the slow-building story arc of a group stage comes the instant danger of a knockout stage.
A look back at five classic UEFA Women’s EURO quarter-finals and semi-finals that are fondly remembered and even shaped the history of the competition itself.
30/07/2017: Germany 1-2 Denmark (quarter-final, Rotterdam)
After losing on penalties to Italy in the 1993 semi-finals and then succumbing 3-1 to Denmark in the third-place game, Germany have moved up a gear. At the time of this rematch with their northern neighbors, their record in Women’s EURO knockout matches was WWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, with only one of those contests even needing extra time as they won six titles in a row. Having also won Olympic gold in 2016, Germany were in no rush to stumble against a Danish side that failed to convince in the group stage.
Signs that something extraordinary was afoot appeared on match day, when a torrential downpour forced the postponement to the following afternoon. Isabel Kerschowski then gave Germany a third-minute lead following an error by goalkeeper Stina Lykke Petersen, but Denmark eventually found their feet, with Nadia Nadim in the lead just after the break and later setting up Theresa Nielsen to pick up the win and finish. 22-year reign of their adversaries.
Denmark have reached their first final, while Germany have yet to regain the aura of invincibility that faded that day in Rotterdam.
24/07/2013: Sweden 0-1 Germany (semi-final, Gothenburg)
There had of course been threats to Germany’s long supremacy before 2017. Four years and six days earlier they faced Sweden at Gamla Ullevi, a familiar home to their opponents, the hosts on a high after scoring 13 goals in four games so far – nine more than Germany. And a crowd of more than 16,000 was full of optimism that ticket sales for the Friends Arena final a few days later had already exceeded expectations, partly in the sincere hope that Sweden would be there.
However, they had to beat Germany first, and one of the most intense matches in the history of the competition was assured. Germany prevailed with a fine 33rd-minute finish from Dzsenifer Marozsán, but they and their goal frame had to withstand a Swedish barrage. Nevertheless, it was Germany who lifted the trophy in Solna, while the Swedish team had to settle for a half-time ball step to receive applause from the 41,301 spectators in the final.
03/09/2009: Finland 2-3 England (quarter-final, Turku)
Some classic games don’t need the backdrop of a long-running rivalry or the prospect of a major upset: knockout matches can often serve as standalone epic dramas. And there are few better examples than this thriller in Turku, where Finland hoped home advantage would help them avenge a 3-2 loss to England early in the 2005 final as the hosts imposed thanks to a last-minute winner.
Finland finally reached the 2005 semi-finals at England’s expense, but in 2009 Hope Powell’s side looked good to end a 14-year absence from the last four when Eli Aluko scored in the 14th minute. And although England lost captain Faye White to a broken cheekbone late in the first half, Fara Williams put them on two just after the break.
However, the home crowd were awakened in the 66th minute when substitute Annica Sjölund brought home a corner. England looked struggling, their recent past haunted by squandered leads in key games and their sure character to be tested. Instead, Aluko launched into a solo run virtually from the start to make it 3-1, and although Linda Sällström reduced the backlog in the 79th minute, England found the resolve to resist.
16/06/2005: Norway 3-2aet Sweden (semi-final, Warrington)
Norway won four major titles between 1987 and 2000 – including two Women’s EUROs – but by the time these neighbors met in the northwest of England, Sweden were the overwhelming favourites. The Blågult had reached the finals of Women’s EURO 2001 and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2003, losing to a German golden goal each time. On top of that, the core of their squad came from the Umeå team that won the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2002/03 and 2003/04, as well as Djurgården/Älvsjö, runners-up in 2004/05.
Sweden put the pressure on from the start but goalkeeper Bente Nordby held on and Solveig Gulbrandsen pushed Norway ahead as half time approached. Hanna Ljungberg then quickly equalized but Isabell Herlovsen restored Norway’s lead midway through the second half, days after becoming the youngest women’s EURO scorer in the group stage.
Still, there were twists to come, with Ljungberg again surging late to force extra time. But it was Norway who once again woke up to have the final say, with Gulbrandsen thrashing a winner to delight the crowds in Warrington, where Bjarne Berntsen’s side had played twice before and garnered fervent home support . Norway eventually lost Blackburn’s final to Germany, but four years later upset the odds again with a 3-1 loss to Sweden in the quarter-finals.
28/06/1989: West Germany 1-1aet, 4-3against Italy (semi-final, Siegen)
If the central narrative in the history of the Women’s EURO has been German hegemony, that’s where it all began. In the early years, the final tournament was a four-team knockout affair hosted by one of the contenders, and in 1989 it was West Germany who received the honor after reaching the semis. -finals for the first time.
Around 8,000 fans showed up in Siegen for their fourth meeting with Italy, with more watching at home as the match became the first women’s game to be shown live on West German television. Indeed, so unfamiliar was that for the players, they accidentally turned their backs on the camera during the Anthems.
Once the action started, Silvia Neid scored for the hosts in the 57th minute, before Elisabetta Vignotto equalized for the 1987 runners-up in a game that ended in a penalty shootout… and continued, with three different West German players missing kicks to seal the win. However, they were immediately given another chance after Marion Isbert made her third save of the shootout, and the keeper herself then stepped up to convert.
ARD audiences were thrilled and the Osnabrück decider was sold out to 21,000, well over double the previous record for the final. West Germany beat Norway 4-1 and won just one of the next eight editions, not to mention winning two World Cups and Olympic gold in 2016.