2009: No stopping awesome Germany
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
There was plenty new about the 2009 UEFA European Women's Championship but not the identity of the winners.
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There was plenty new about the 2009 UEFA European Women's Championship - notably a new venue, Finland, and a new number of finalists, 12 rather than eight, allowing three newcomers, the Netherlands, Iceland and Ukraine. More familiar was the identity of the winners.
For the fifth edition running and seventh overall, Germany – who since Silvia Neid's appoints as coach had already retained the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2007 – emerged champions. Like in 2001 and 2005 they won every game they played, including qualifying. In the decisive 6-2 defeat of England, captain Birgit Prinz scored in her fourth separate final and picked up her fifth winner's medal.
A record number of 46 teams began the tournament, with the previous two-tier system abolished in favour of a new format where 20 nations competed in a preliminary round to earn five places alongside the 25 automatic entrants to the qualifying group stage. By the end of the two-year process, all eight sides that competed in England in 2005 had qualified, along with Russia, Iceland, Ukraine and the Netherlands – all, like Italy, making it via the play-offs.
From the first day in Finland there was drama, with the Netherlands beating Ukraine 2-0 in the battle of the newcomers and Finland delighting more than 16,000 fans by overcoming Denmark. The hosts were to win Group A ahead of the Netherlands, who ousted Denmark with a 2-1 victory. Germany beat Norway, France and Iceland – scoring ten goals – to top Group B ahead of Les Bleues and Sweden finished ahead of Italy in Group C. The two best third-placed teams also progressed, Norway and England.
England then ended Finland's hopes in Turku with a 3-2 win, while the Netherlands' dream run continued after they eliminated France on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Tampere. Germany were given a scare by Italy in Lahti but won 2-1 and Norway – written off by many – overcame Sweden 3-1 in Helsinki. The Netherlands' semi-final run earned the players two-year salaries from the Dutch state but their stubborn defence was breached near the end of extra time as England won 2-1 in Tampere. Meanwhile, Norway led Germany at half-time in Helsinki but the holders stormed back to win 3-1 with goals from substitutes Simone Laudehr, Célia Okoyino da Mbabi and Fatmire Bajramaj.
Helsinki's Olympic Stadium was the setting for the final, and in a four-minute spell midway through the first half Prinz and Melanie Behringer struck only for Karen Carney to immediately pull one back. But teenage German sensation Kim Kulig made it 3-1 just after the break and although Kelly Smith reduced arrears, two Inka Grings goals and a Prinz clincher settled the game. Grings finished top scorer for the second finals running and her tally of six was a record, three clear of her nearest challengers in Finland.