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Germany clinched their fifth UEFA European Women's Championship in a row but only after a valiant fight from an England team showing every bit of the attacking spirit that took them to their first final in 25 years.
In a five-minute burst midway through the first half, Birgit Prinz and Melanie Behringer put Germany in front only for Karen Carney to pull one back. Not long after the break Kim Kulig and Kelly Smith exchanged goals before Inka Grings added two in eleven minutes and made another for Prinz, allowing Germany to take their seventh European title.
England captain Faye White started in a mask having broken her cheekbone in the quarter-final against Finland, and within a few minutes produced a vital saving tackle on fellow skipper Prinz. It was a reshuffled England attack with Smith pushed forward and Carney restored on the right, while Jill Scott came into midfield to give Fara Willams, whose ninth-minute free-kick came very close, freedom to advance.
The holders also had a tactical change with Simone Laudehr starting in midfield and Linda Bresonik moved to right-back. It was from down that side that the opening goal came, as Grings chased a Laudehr pass and squared for Prinz to score in the fourth of the five European finals she has won. Two minutes later Behringer doubled the lead with a thunderous, long-range strike that caught out Rachel Brown as Smith had done the Russia goalkeeper in the group stage.
In that game England recovered from two down to lead at the break and they threatened that again two minutes after the second goal when Smith muscled her way to the byline and cut back for Carney to turn the ball into an empty net. Already a physical tussle, the rest of the half passed in a torrent of attacks at both ends, a Jill Scott header cleared off the line by Behringer the best of the chances.
Half-time did not calm things. Six minutes into the second period Laudehr's effort after a corner was blocked by the post and rolled across the line to be cleared by Casey Stoney only as far as Kulig, who smashed in her first competitive senior international goal. Again England responded immediately, Carney finding Smith in the box to twist clear of her marker and give Nadine Angerer no chance with her shot. Seven minutes later, though, Kerstin Garefrekes's cross from the left was headed in by Grings.
Alex Scott was a relieved women when her deflection from substitute Célia Okoyino da Mbabi's cross bounced off the England post, but Grings then skipped past Anita Asante and White to produce her competition record sixth finals goal, sealing the adidas Golden Boot award. Grings then set up Prinz for another, both now level with Heidi Mohr on ten finals goals. The world champions now had the game sealed, extending a reign as European champions that started in 1995. England, meanwhile, can take heart from the adventurous spirit displayed in Finland, their six games producing 26 goals.
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