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Fascinating clashes of styles

Fascinating clashes of styles

When Sweden had previously clinched the title in Turkey in 2011/12, the total haul of goals stood at a record low of 26 from 15 matches, an average of just 1.73 per game. Where heat was also a factor in Israel, the 39 strikes on show represented a comparative upswing of 50% and was consistent with the preceding two final tournaments at this level, in 2014 (36 goals in Norway at 2.4 per game) and 2013 (40 goals in Wales at an average of 2.67).

There was a notable emphasis in matches on the physical and the technical qualities of the team
Hope Powell

The main difference was not how many, but how: how were the differences etched between winning and losing matches; and how did the differing strengths of the finalists translate into results on the field during the finals?

"There was a notable emphasis in matches on the physical and the technical qualities of the team," noted UEFA technical observer Hope Powell. "Many of the teams had undergone special programmes in order to be better prepared and some implemented some of those physical aspects on the field. The coaches had to have an overview to be on top of that – to use their specialists well both to cope with the demands of the game and to physically compete while going through injury prevention programmes to protect players."


There were moments of attacking heading ability leading to goals in the final tournament. Rebecca Knaak's powerful effort earned Germany what transpired to be a significant victory in their opening match against England, resulting from a right-wing corner. Stina Blackstenius also had it in her enviable repertoire as part of her starring role in Sweden's triumph, especially in the final against Spain.

But all across the pitch, the skill was praised by UEFA's technical team.

"The quality of headers has improved overall in women's football and that was also reflected in this tournament," added Hesterine de Reus. "Girls are practising them from a younger age and we see that they are also benefiting from treating heading the ball as a clear skill. They are also being looked upon as athletes from a very early age and that brings very different demands."

TeamGoal attemptsOn targetAverageGoals
Denmark 17 4 5.67 2
England 32 12 10.67 2
France 57 17 14.25 7
Germany 60 25 15 6
Israel 8 3 2.67 1
Norway 37 23 12.33 2
Spain 79 33 15.8 9
Sweden 56 22 11.2 10

Conserving energy

©Getty Images

Norway's players took a cerebral approach to the conditions

Characteristic of the styles of both Sweden and Norway was the tactical ability to be defensively organised in an efficient way that also conserved energy in the humid conditions of the Israeli summer. In their victory over Germany in Lod, Norway were very patient without the ball, comfortable in the knowledge that their organisation gave them a strong chance to win the first or second ball – Germany's options had been limited through patience and the execution of plans.

Sweden would be equally efficient, conscious that with Blackstenius roving in the attacking third they had the firepower to make the most of opportunities that came their way and could therefore afford perseverance. Sweden's success in the first half of the Netanya final against Spain owed much to their ability to win the second ball, a fact recognised by both members of the technical team.

Among their rivals, there was a different emphasis.

"Technically speaking, Spain, France and England were teams who were under pressure to see the pass," explained Powell. "They had a focus on one-touch play and a special awareness about where their team-mates were that displayed both ability and proficiency."

That wasn't to completely indulge the notion that sides relied on their cultural background at times in order to achieve the desired results. Even among the three teams mentioned by Powell, there remained a usage of the long ball where it was expedient – though Spain in particular were reluctant to abandon their faith in patience and possession in the final, even when trailing by two goals at the mid-point.

Aiming for results


Germany used long passes to good effect in the final

"The trends highlighted the need to get the wide player in off the line and to utilise the ability of the full-back to get up and down the field on the outside," said De Reus. At times against organised opponents, the more compact sides were encouraged to play the long ball to quickly get into the channels – and while, as Powell noted, "Germany were the first to use this to good effect" in the finals, the policy did not always reap rewards.

What the tactical expediency did show is the prevailing dependence on results as a support for player and team development – also bringing the additional need to successfully manage the transition between age groups in international youth football.

"The best players in international football tend to come from this environment," concluded Powell. "The coaches have the opportunity to educate the players against the best in Europe and then, if they are successful, in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup as well. The skills are going up but the expectations are growing to match."

Stina BlacksteniusSweden6
Marie-Charlotte LégerFrance3
Alba RedondoSpain3
Filippa AngeldalSweden2
Nicoline SørensenDenmark2
Pilar GarroteSpain2
Nina EhegötzGermany2
Rebecca KnaakGermany2
Madeline GierGermany1
Noémie CarageFrance1
Nathalie BjörnSweden1
Vilde FjelldalNorway1