If followers of English football were asked to recall the greatest individual performances in the 77-year history of the old Wembley Stadium, the name Carolina Morace would be unlikely to feature alongside Matthews, Hurst and Charlton.
Yet one of the highlights of a career which saw the Italian legend play in two UEFA European Women's Championship finals, win 12 titles with eight different clubs and become the first female to coach a professional men's team in her homeland came in 1990 when she scored four of her 105 international goals at the spiritual home of football. "My most vivid memory of the match was the last goal," Morace told uefa.com. "I dribbled around a number of their players before scoring and the English supporters graciously cheered as it was a special goal."
Morace, who coached Italy at the 2001 and 2005 editions, make her mark as a player with an industrious and intelligent approach that helped the Azzurre to the 1993 and 1997 finals. She has been giving it her best shot since joining her first club in her home city of Venice at the age of eleven. "I can't remember exactly when I started playing football," she said, "but I have a brother who's two years older who I was always having kickarounds with. I never had any problem being accepted by boys then, probably because I was always one of the goalscorers – even if I was the only girl everybody wanted me to be on their side."
Within four years the teenager was turning out for her country for the first time. "My debut was against Yugoslavia in Naples," she said. "Italy won 5-1 and I played the last 15 minutes. It was a great day and I have lots of happy memories. I was really looking forward to coming on even though I was so young." Over a decade later she was in her pomp and dazzling England at Wembley.
Italian football's capo cannoniera – leading scorer – in eleven consecutive seasons from 1987/88 to 1998/99, Morace's career was full of magical moments, yet she recalls with great fondness the aftermath of the final match of her club career at Modena. "We'd won the title and I was the top scorer in Serie A," she said. "All the players and officials went to a restaurant to celebrate and when I got up to leave everyone stood and gave me a standing ovation – it was such a great moment."
Her international career yielded 105 goals in 153 matches and she ran China's Sun Wen and Michelle Akers of the United States close in the greatest female player ever vote. "Coming from a small country like Italy, that made me extremely proud," said Morace. With the female game enjoying none of the riches of its male counterpart, however, she qualified as a lawyer (and now runs a practice in Rome) and found a niche as a football commentator on Italian television as well as a coach, leading Italy at UEFA Women's EURO 2005 and taking the Canada helm in February 2009.
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