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Although an unofficial European Nations Cup for women had been organised in Italy in 1969 and 1979 – with the hosts and Denmark victorious – the first tournament under UEFA auspices ran from 1982-84.
Titled the European Competition for Women's Football, as half of UEFA's members would need to enter before it gained official status, the 16-team tournament began with a group match between Finland and Sweden in Vammala on 18 August 1982, the visitors prevailing 6-0. With four pools of four sides, and only the winners advancing, Sweden easily topped Group 1 with six wins out of six, while England dominated Group 2, scoring 24 goals and conceding just one in a section containing four teams from the British Isles.
France kicked off Group 3 by surprising Italy 1-0, but the Azzurre bounced back and recorded five straight victories to qualify. In Group 4, Denmark overcame the Netherlands 2-0 in their final game to top a tight pool that West Germany and Belgium also had hopes of winning until the last round of matches. Unlike in future years, the tournament was decided by two-legged semi-finals and a final which would also be played on a home-and-away basis. England beat Denmark 2-1 in Crewe and 1-0 away in Hjorring to progress, while Sweden followed up a 3-2 win in Rome - in front of a crowd of 10,000 - with a 2-1 success in Linkoping to see off Italy 5-3 on aggregate.
Gothenburg was the venue for the final first leg on 21 May 1984, and the great Pia Sundhage, later to be placed sixth in the FIFA Woman Player of the Century poll, scored the only goal to give Sweden the advantage. The return six days later was to be tough due to heavy rain in Luton.
Sure enough, England kept their nerve, and Linda Curl scored to take the match into extra time despite Sweden hitting the post. No more goals meant a penalty shoot-out, and after Sweden goalkeeper Elisabeth 'Lappen' Leidinge had kept one out, it was left to Sundhage, whose international career had started in 1975 and lasted until 1996, to seal the success. She remembers: "I took the last shot. We won the final. It was a marvellous success."
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