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1993: Azzurre left feeling blue

The 1993 championship saw a new finalist in Italy, but an old favourite triumph in Cesena.

Norway followed up their triumph in 1993 by winning the World Cup in 1995
Norway followed up their triumph in 1993 by winning the World Cup in 1995 ©Bongarts

The growing strength of football on this continent was highlighted by three European teams reaching the semi-finals of the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991, and emphasised by a record 23 nations entering the 1993 UEFA European Women's Championship.

This time there were no second chances in the qualifying phase, however, with only the eight group winners progressing. Again the traditional powers came to the fore, with Norway, Denmark, England and Sweden all charging through their sections; Norway and Sweden registering 10-0 victories in the process.

In Group 5, the Netherlands failed to defeat Romania at home or away but profited from superior results against Greece. Italy were also taken all the way by Czechoslovakia in Group 7, while the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union) ensured there would be one new face in the quarter-finals as they finished above Hungary.

Germany - who had triumphed as West Germany in 1991 - took a different route to the last eight having been paired in a two-team group with Yugoslavia. Their opponents were forced to withdraw after losing their 'home' leg in Sofia, Bulgaria 3-0 due to the outbreak of civil war, rendering the second leg redundant.

Germany, Norway, Denmark and Italy had come through the quarter-finals two years before, experience which served them well. The holders won 7-0 in Moscow before a goalless home draw confirmed their progress past the CIS, while 1991 runners-up Norway claimed two 3-0 victories against the Netherlands. England lost 3-2 in Italy then fell 3-0 at home, while Denmark prevailed 2-1 in Sweden before a 1-1 home draw took them through.

Italy were selected to host the deciders, and were drawn against the champions in the last four. The omens were not good for the Azzurre, who had lost all their semi-finals, including the last two to the Germans, and sure enough they fell behind as Heidi Mohr, so often Germany's hero, gave her country a 57th-minute lead in Rimini as they continued their bid for a hat-trick of titles.

Seven minutes later, Carolina Morace - Italy's greatest player and the woman who will mastermind their challenge in England - equalised to send the tie into extra time. Jutta Nardenbach's sending-off looked to have handed Italy the initiative but, as in 1989, penalties would be decisive. And just as home advantage told then, so it did here as the Italians triumphed 4-3 on spot-kicks.

A day earlier, Anne Nymark Andersen's second-half goal in Sportilia ensured Norway beat Denmark 1-0 to reach a fourth consecutive final. After Denmark had overcome Germany 3-1 to take third place, Norway squared up with Italy in Cesena for the right to be crowned European champions.

The Norwegians, winners in 1987, had lost their two previous finals, but the victors on those occasions, Germany, no longer stood in their way. With five minutes left Birthe Hegstad broke the deadlock, and Norway were again queens of Europe.

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