For four UEFA European Women's Championship finals in a row the story has been the same: a Germany victory. England are hoping to end that run when they aim for their first major title in Thursday's decider at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki.
Just as in 2001 and 2005, Germany have won every game of their campaign so far, despite scares in their knockout matches against Italy and Norway. England began the finals with a 2-1 loss to Italy and were heading for the exit at two down to Russia before recovering to win 3-2. A 1-1 draw with Sweden then took them through to the latter stages where they overcame Finland and the Netherlands in tense fixtures. It is England's first final since the inaugural edition of 1984, which they lost to Sweden, in contrast to six-time European champions and dual FIFA Women's World Cup winners Germany.
In fact, England have not beaten Germany in 18 attempts but there were two 0-0 draws in China in 2007, including in the World Cup, the only game in that competition or this one that they have not won in a decade. Germany coach Silvia Neid hailed the attacking force England have become under Hope Powell, saying: "[Kelly] Smith and [Karen] Carney are outstanding and she has tall defenders opponents have to respect. [Eniola] Aluko is doing a lot of things right, [Katie] Chapman and [Fara] Williams in front of the defence have a very good passing game and a good eye. It's going be a classic."
Neid is without experienced centre-back Ariane Hingst due to a knee injury and in the semi-final opted for Saskia Bartusiak over Sonja Fuss as the replacement due to her aerial ability and understanding with Annike Krahn. The coach has used her squad to the full in Finland, most notably when substitutes Simone Laudehr, Célia Okoyino da Mbabi and Fatmire Bajramaj all scored in the semi-final. "It's difficult for our opponents to cope with the different types of players in our team," Neid said
Powell could restore captain Faye White to central defence, wearing a mask over the cheekbone fractured against Finland, or keep faith in Lindsay Johnson, and may also start with Karen Carney on the wing having deployed 20-year-old Jess Clarke versus the Netherlands. Looking back at the goalless result two years ago, Powell said: "What we draw from that is a level of confidence. We have a level of confidence from the fact we are in this final. We understand we are the underdogs, but stats mean nothing until after the final whistle."
In the knockout games both Italy and Norway have given Germany scares and Powell suggests they may be more vulnerable than in the last World Cup. "They've conceded goals in this tournament, which they didn't do in 2007," Powell said. "They have frailties, as do every other team. We recognise they have strengths, and we also recognise they have weaknesses and those are the areas we will try to exploit."
Dagmar Damková of the Czech Republic has been chosen to referee the, assisted by Italy's Romina Santuari and Croatia's Lada Rojc, with Finland's Kirsi Heikkinen the fourth official. To read an interview with Damková click here.
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