France defeat Norway to taste glory
France were crowned queens of Europe for the very first time on Sunday after overcoming Norway 2-0 in the Final of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Leipzig, Germany. Goals from Amelie Coquet and Lilas Traikia secured a convincing victory for Les Bleuettes by the same scoreline as they had defeated England in the semi-finals on Friday. Norway finally ran out of steam after battling back in each of their four previous matches in the finals, including the semi-final against rivals Sweden.
The win demonstrated just how far France have come not only in the women’s game, but also in the competition itself. Bruno Bini’s girls had struggled in the group phase, securing a place among the last four only after coming from a goal down to beat the Netherlands in the final match. Last year’s beaten finalists had begun the tournament with a 2-2 draw against eventual runners-up Norway before suffering a shock 2-3 defeat to Spain. However the nail-biting finish against the Dutch seemed to settle their nerves and led by talents such as Elise Bussaglia and Amelie Coquet, they put last year’s Final defeat to Germany behind them.
Neighbours do battle in semis
Norway won the contest of the Scandinavian giants in Grimma – but they were made to sweat by a determined and talented Swedish team. Two Nilla Fischer goals down at the break, the Norwegians summoned up every scrap of their pride, strength and ability to pull back first through Stine Frantzen (72) and then equalise in the dying seconds through Tone Heimlund (90). It set up an agonising finale with Monica Henriksen blasting the winner for a 4-2 victory in the penalty shootout.
France proved too strong for plucky England in Markranstädt in the second of the 1 August semi-finals. Cecilia Josserand struck the opener in the 12th minute and despite concerted pressure from the English Lionesses, driven from midfield by captain Fara Williams, Nonna Debonne sealed France’s place in the Final with a close range effort in the 88th minute. It was the second year in succession England had fallen at the penultimate hurdle.
Match report of semi-finals
Thrills and spills in group stages
Goals, late winners and big surprises characterised the group phase of Germany 2003. The biggest upset came with the early elimination of the hosts Germany, who had won the event’s previous four editions. Despite a 6-0 thrashing of eventual Group A winners England in their final match, the holders were forced to take a premature bow after earlier defeats to Italy (0-2) and Sweden (1-2). England, on the other hand, gave a glimpse of their huge potential with opening victories versus Sweden (2-1) and Italy (3-1).
The second qualifiyng spot for the semi-finals came down to a head-to-head battle between Italy and Sweden. And in a tournament full of the best things in the game, it proved arguably the finals’ most outstanding match. Sweden finally clinched their place among the last four thanks to a 4-1 win on penalties after Italy’s Giulia Domenichetti had equalised to make it 3-3 in the second minute of injury time.
Norway rise above competition
Group B proved equally as tight with all the teams showing they have something to offer in the women’s game. Spain caused the major surprise by defeating France 3-2 in the second match helped by a couple of strikes from their gangly forward Adriana. The fine win, however, was sandwiched between defeats to the Netherlands and Norway. Despite taking an early lead in both encounters, the Iberians’ lack of experience proved telling as they conceded late goals to go down 2-1 on both occasions.
The Dutch team were themselves outdone by a late goal in their all-important third match against France. With a win (2-1 versus Spain) and a loss (1-2 versus Norway) under their belts, Corné Groenendijk's side were justifiably confident going into the second half a Manon Melis goal to the good. But within minutes of the restart Elise Bussaglia had scored a stunning equaliser for Les Bleuettes before Gaëtane Thiney struck the winner with less than a quarter of an hour left on the clock. As the three other teams took points off each other in the fight for second spot, Norway’s consistency together with inspired performances from the super-talented Stine Frantzen bought them safe passage to the semi-finals.
Goals but no glory
Germany’s Shelley Thompson finished as the competiton’s leading scorer with four strikes – all coming in the final group match against England. More than a little, it nevertheless proved too late as the hosts and holders had already been knocked out before the game had begun. It may have been a tournament full of goals, but they were fairly evenly shared out with France’s Elise Bussaglia, Norway’s Stine Frantzen, Italy’s Agnese Ricco and Sweden’s Nilla Fischer all grabbing three a piece.