As Hope Powell's 15 years as England manager ends, UEFA.com recalls a memorable reign with her thoughts on milestones including a major final and the Olympics.
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Few individuals have had the influence on a sport in a single nation that Hope Powell has on English women's football.
Appointed England's first full-time manager by Football Association (FA) technical director Howard Wilkinson in 1998, Powell was 31 and was still playing. Capped 66 times, she took over a team that had failed to qualify for the 1997 UEFA European Women's Championship and made it to all four continental final tournaments during her 15-year tenure. UEFA.com looks at key milestones from one of the longest international reigns there has been, which ended on Wednesday.
1984 European final
The highlight of Powell's international playing career was helping England to the inaugural two-legged UEFA European women's national-teams final, which they lost to Sweden on penalties in Luton, both sides having won 1-0 at home. Powell told UEFA.com: "I was only 17 so didn't fully appreciate the meaning of the event. My strongest memory is that I missed a penalty and that it was a miserable muddy evening. I was delighted to be in the final but I knew nothing about international football – who the stars were, anything. It was so different to today's competition it's not possible to imagine."
Powell had actually applied for another role at the FA when Wilkinson offered her the newly-created full-time position as England manager, previously a second job for one of their regional coaches. Wilkinson said a decade later: "We had a clear idea of where we wanted the team to go and how to get there and Hope stuck to that plan. The result is the production of the most successful English team, which has gone from nowhere in the world rankings to eighth."
Having led England to the 2001 European finals, the following year Powell was appointed MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list. "This reward just reinforces the work that everybody at the Football Association has done on women's football, so this is an honour for everyone," said Powell, who became England's first female UEFA Pro Licence holder in 2003 and was later upgraded to CBE.
England lost to France in the 2003 World Cup play-offs, and had the disappointment of an early exit from UEFA Women's EURO 2005. As hosts, they failed to get past the group stage despite winning a dramatic opener 3-2 against Finland in front of a then tournament record crowd of just under 30,000 in Manchester.
They turned the tables on France to qualify for the 2007 World Cup in China and Powell – who played in England's run to the 1995 quarter-finals – took her team to the same stage, holding eventual winners Germany 0-0 in the group stage in between defeats of Japan and Argentina before losing to the United States. "We went into the tournament generally unknown, and we've come out of it very well known," Powell said.
England began UEFA Women's EURO 2009 with a loss against Italy, and only progressed to the knockout rounds as one of two best third-placed teams. But a thrilling 3-2 defeat of hosts Finland was followed by an epic 2-1 extra-time win against the Netherlands, taking England to their first senior final for men or women since that game with Sweden 25 years before.
Three late Germany goals eventually condemned England to a 6-2 loss, but Powell said last year to UEFA.com: "The whole tournament was very, very special; not just for myself, for everyone at the association, the players. To be part of a major tournament and keep progressing makes every moment very special, and you cherish every one."
England reached another World Cup in 2011, beating eventual champions Japan to get out of the group only to concede a late equaliser before losing on penalties against France in the quarter-finals. There was another global opportunity the following year on home soil, as Powell took charge of the first ever Great Britain women's football team for the London Olympics. Playing New Zealand in Cardiff in the first event of the Games, GB won 1-0 with 2.5 million viewers watching the conclusion on a Wednesday afternoon.
They topped their group after overcoming Brazil in front of 70,584 fans at Wembley and, although Canada ended their medal hopes in the last eight, Powell reflected in a UEFA.com interview: "The Olympics was a great opportunity to showcase women's football around the world. It's a global event, and if you look at our game against Brazil at Wembley – 70,000 – and the final between USA and Japan – 80,000 – the interest was phenomenal. People spoke very, very highly about the calibre and the quality of play."
The interest generated by the Olympics led the BBC to give extensive coverage to UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden, televising not just England matches but a live game every night. However England failed to get past the group stage, a dramatic 3-2 loss to Spain and last-gasp 1-1 draw with Russia followed by a decisive 3-0 defeat by France which was to prove Powell's 162nd and final game in charge.
Powell said: "The preparations were spot on in terms of the opposition we had [and] the camp itself. It is just on the day we weren't good enough. We didn't perform against Russia, weren't at our best against Spain and [against France] it was a gallant effort against a very good side. I'm very proud of the players and staff; we came with the best intentions but we have to accept we weren't quite good enough."