Although a number of female youth international tournaments primarily involving Nordic nations had been played prior to the maiden UEFA European Women's Under-18 Championship, the first official competitive match at this level took place on 23 September 1997 when Sweden played Ukraine in the inaugural 26-team preliminary round.
Sweden won 8-0 in Sandviken − Petra Johnsson scoring seven minutes in and Therese Lundin striking a hat-trick − and topped the group after defeating Lithuania 19-0 thanks in part to five Lundin goals. Over the next two months the remaining seven quarter-final berths were filled by Norway, Russia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France.
France were the only nation not to progress with maximum points, pipping England on goal difference with both teams unbeaten. The quarter-final ties were played over two legs in April and May 1998. Germany, under Silvia Neid, were the first team through, following a 2-1 win in Norway with a 3-2 home success six days later.
Four days on the other three semi-finalists were revealed. Sweden defeated Italy 1-0 at home and 4-0 in Perugia, while France followed a single-goal home victory against Russia with a 2-0 scoreline in Selyatino. The closest tie was between the Netherlands and Denmark, with the latter's 2-1 away win proving enough to help them through despite a 1-0 home loss.
Denmark made the most of that chance. Having held Germany 0-0 at home in the first leg of their semi-final, Signe Højen Andersen struck the only goal in the 57th minute in Flensburg to maintain their fine away form. There was to be no all-Scandinavian final, though, as France defeated Sweden 5-3 on penalties following 2-0 scorelines in both legs.
Unlike future years, the final was a two-legged affair. This time Denmark produced the goods at home, as Majbritt Knudsen struck on six and 86 minutes in the first leg in Åbenrå. A week later in Niederbronn-les-Bains, Lydie Devaud gave France a tenth-minute lead, only for Gitte Pedersen to register an invaluable away goal as half-time approached.
Karina Pedersen all but sealed victory in the 73rd minute, and although Isabelle Le Denmat and Ellen Pogeat pulled goals back, France still needed two more when the final whistle confirmed Denmark as 4-3 winners and the inaugural champions of Europe.
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