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2013: Sixth maybe the best for Germany

There were challenges from Sweden, France and Norway, but a Germany team in transition and hit by injury came through once again to clinch a sixth straight European title.

Nadine Angerer, who saved two penalties in the final, lifts the trophy
Nadine Angerer, who saved two penalties in the final, lifts the trophy ©Sportsfile

Germany won the UEFA European Women's Championship. That sentence could have been written in 2009, 2005, 2001, 1997, 1995 and – with a Norway triumph in the middle – 1991 or 1989. However, that does not even begin to tell the tale of their success in Sweden.

Their 12-year run of victories in all UEFA Women's EURO games was ended with a dramatic comeback by Spain to draw 2-2 in qualifying. Then in their first game in Sweden they drew 0-0 with the Netherlands, having not dropped a finals point since 1997, and an unbeaten record stretching back a year longer was ended in the last pool game by Norway.

Yet 11 days later, Norway were beaten 1-0 and Germany were champions once again. Considering the likes of Birgit Prinz, Ariane Hingst and Kerstin Garefrekes had retired from the team, and Kim Kulig and Babett Peter were among six key injuries, many thought this would be the year Germany fell. They did not.

Sweden were the side many identified to dethrone them. There was unprecedented backing for the hosts, resulting in total ticket sales of 216,888 – over 75,000 more than any previous UEFA Women's EURO. That was especially the case with Pia Sundhage taking the helm in autumn 2012 and the presence of Lotta Schelin up front.

She had a penalty saved in the opener against Denmark but then hit form, her five goals comfortably winning her the adidas Golden Boot. However, when they were up against Germany in the semi-finals, Schelin and Sweden drew a blank and lost 1-0, though the squad were still feted during a half-time walkabout in front of a tournament record 41,301 crowd at the final.

Others felt France, after finishing fourth at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympics, were Europe's finest. They had the only perfect record in qualifying and were the sole side to win all their group games in Sweden, including a 3-0 victory that eliminated 2009 runners-up England.

Very hot favourites to beat Denmark in the quarter-finals, France were held 1-1 and then beaten 4-2 on penalties – Stina Petersen, who had saved that spot kick from Schelin and another from Kosovare Asllani in the same game, again proving the heroine.

Denmark's run was then ended, also 4-2 on penalties, by Norway. Although they had topped their group by beating Germany, Norway were not among most peoples' favourites, their qualifying form so shaky that a coaching change was made, Even Pellerud returning to the position in which he achieved such success between 1989 and 1996.

But their combination of an experienced spine in Ingvild Stensland, Trine Rønning and Solveig Gulbrandsen, plus teenage talents Caroline Graham Hansen and Ada Hegerberg, topped a section also including Iceland and the Netherlands, ousted Spain and Denmark in the knockouts and then came so close to dethroning Germany in Solna. But Angerer, reserve in the victorious squads of 1997, 2001 and 2005 before succeeding Silke Rottenberg in time for 2009, had other ideas.

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