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The English Football Association received plaudits after UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005 drew record crowds and television audiences.
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It is a measure of the success of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005 that there was a government reception at the House of Commons to congratulate the English Football Association on their organisation of an event which drew unprecedented crowds and broke television viewing records.
A total of 117,384 spectators attended the 15 matches in Manchester, Blackpool, Warrington, Preston and Blackburn with the opening game – England's thrilling 3-2 victory against Finland at the City of Manchester stadium on Sunday 5 June – attracting 29,092 fans, a record for a women's match in Europe. Over 21,100 people were also at Ewood Park to witness Germany defeat Norway 3-1 to claim their fourth successive crown, a record for a final.
Eurosport screened every fixture live, with the BBC showing England's three group games and the final. More than three and a half million viewers tuned in for the hosts' loss to Sweden on 11 June, a 20 per cent share of the English audience on a Saturday evening. "The crowds and the TV figures are excellent," said UEFA CEO Lars-Christer Olsson. "The fact we were successful in the homeland of football will also have positive effects in all other countries around Europe. I'm sure we will move women's football to another level."
The praise began before a ball had been kicked. "You can smell the football in the air - we love it," said Denmark coach Peter Bonde prior to his side's opening match against Sweden. "This place is where football began and everything about it oozes football." That game ended all-square, meaning England established early control of Group A by overcoming Finland.
Denmark then defeated England 2-1 and Sweden drew 0-0 with Finland, leaving Denmark and England needing draws to progress. Neither could do it, as Sweden beat the hosts 1-0 and the Finns shocked Denmark by winning 2-1 in Blackpool. Reaching the semi-finals was a fantastic achievement for the Finns – a country with only 19,000 registered players, the lowest in the tournament along with Italy.
The Italians were the biggest disappointment at EURO, going down 3-1 to France, 4-0 to Germany and 5-3 to Norway in Group B. Germany also saw off Norway and France without conceding to advance as pool winners, while Norway progressed as runners-up ahead of a French team with whom they drew 1-1. That match marked the international arrival of Isabell Herlovsen, a 16-year-old sensation who would also score in the 3-2 semi-final victory against Sweden.
The all-Scandinavian semi was the game of the tournament, with Hanna Ljungberg scoring two brilliant equalisers for the Swedes to take the tie into extra time following goals from Solveig Gulbrandsen and Herlovsen. Gulbrandsen's 109th-minute winner brought the end of Sweden coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors's nine-year reign. "I really wish I could have won a gold medal with the girls, but unfortunately that didn't happen," she said.
Tina Theune-Meyer's time as Germany coach was to end in glory, however, as her side followed their 4-1 semi-final victory against Finland with a 3-1 success against Norway. Inka Grings opened the scoring to make her the leading scorer on four goals, with Renate Lingor and Birgit Prinz adding the others and Dagny Mellgren registering for a Norwegian team who showed great attacking quality under new coach Bjarne Berntsen.
"What makes us a winning team is that we have a tough-minded group of players who play hard and want to win everything," said Theune-Meyer, who shaped Germany into a unit which continues to raise the bar in women's football during her nine years in charge.