The continued rise of women's football, including an unprecedented surge in popularity in the 1990s, was pre-empted by the creation of the inaugural UEFA European Competition for Representative Women's Teams in the early 1980s.
The inaugural event was played in the period between 1982 and 1984, when 16 teams competed for the right to contest a two-legged play-off final, Sweden and England eventually winning through. The final proved to be a tight affair, both nations winning their home legs 1-0 before Sweden triumphed 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out in Luton on 27 May 1984.
The duo met again in the 1984-87 competition, this time at the semi-final stage with Sweden again having the upper hand, progressing to a Nordic final showdown with Norway. The Norwegians, mightily impressive in a 2-0 semi-final defeat of Italy, edged another close showpiece 2-1 in Oslo to further boost the game in the country.
Entering the 1987-89 edition Norway again looked the team to beat. However, they were in danger of elimination at the first hurdle before finishing second behind rapidly-improving Denmark by defeating England 3-1 away in their final group match. Denmark were then eliminated by Sweden, who fell to Norway in the last four. Meanwhile, West Germany had powered into the final where they underlined their growing status by beating Norway 4-1 in Osnabrück in July 1989.
The competition was then given European Championship status and the holders, now simply Germany following unification in October 1990, again savoured success in the 1989/91 event, Norway reducing the losing deficit to 3-1 in Aalborg, Denmark. Despite German dominance, the women's game was blossoming all over the continent, as the rise of Italy in the second UEFA European Women's Championship proved.
The Azzurre beat Germany in the last four to set-up a final meeting with a Norwegian side smarting from successive final defeats. Norway's big-game experience told in the final as they beat the hosts 1-0 in Cesena. The 1993-95 final round was again played in Germany and the home team made use of a sizeable support to defeat Sweden 3-2 in Kaiserslautern.
Investment in women's football was paying dividends in Germany and the nation duly won the following edition in Norway, beating Italy 2-0 in Oslo on 12 July 1997. That final round was the first to involve eight teams, while being the last event to be staged every two years. It is now played every four years over a two-year period, as well as a UEFA qualifying competition for the FIFA Women's World Cup, staged every four years.
Following their successes of 1995 and 1997, Germany completed a hat-trick of titles in 2001 by defeating old foes Sweden 1-0 thanks to Claudia Müller's golden goal in Ulm. And Germany made it four wins in a row in 2005, winning all five of their matches as including a 3-1 victory over Norway in the final. The finals were expanded to 12 teams for 2009 in Finland but the result was the same; six German victories culminating in a 6-2 defeat of England. Sweden will host the 2013 edition.
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