Kenilworth Road 27 May 1984 – England 1–0 Sweden (3–4 on penalties)
Linda Curl’s cracker levels the tie but Swedes edge it on penalties
Classic match report: Sweden win the first ever UEFA Women’s Euro, but brave England push them all the way
After their last four meetings ended in stalemate, England and Sweden wore the look of two fairly evenly matched teams with a healthy respect for eachother’s capabilities.
The match started tentatively, both teams sizing eachother up. Chapman’s initial forays down the left wing fizzled out under the close attentions of Ann Jansson.
It quickly became clear that Bampton and Coultard had a tough assignment against Sweden’s tenacious midfield general Anna Svenjeby, who deservedly picked up the Player of the Match award.
When Sweden forced a succession of corners mid way through the first-half, inspirational left-back Maggie Pearce could be heard to encourage and cajole, bellowing: “We’ve gone a bit quiet girls! Come on!”
In the 18th minute debutante Lena Videkull expertly chested down a right-wing cross and thumped a fierce shot off the base of the post, with Terry Wiseman beaten all ends up.
Seconds later the ball broke to Sundhage in the box and Sweden’s centre-forward blasted straight at Wiseman, who gathered at the second attempt.
Sundhage and Wiseman continued their personal duel in the 20th minute when England’s goalkeeper made a brave diving save at her rival’s feet… three yards outside the penalty area.
It was unclear whether Dutch ref Mynheer Bakker was feeling chivalrous or had left his cards in the dressing room! Wiseman was not even spoken to and England charged down the direct free kick.
England were penned back but on 23 minutes Åhman-Svensson’s awful outswinging corner landed at the feet of Linda Curl. A swift counter attack looked likely but even before Curl got her head up she was wiped out by a rugged challenge.
Play was held up for several minutes while physio Tony Brightwell administered treatment. Curl was in obvious discomfort but hobbled to her feet and soldiered on.
Ten minutes before the break, speedster Davis left her marker by the corner flag with a neat turn and marauded into the penalty area. When Börjesson abruptly shut the door in her face, Davis’s dying swan dive did nothing to impress the ref. It was a big step up in class for the youngster, still a diamond in the rough.
That was it until half-time and England reemerged to play into the breeze for the second period. Terry Wiseman had dispensed with her baseball cap for the second-half but was called into action almost immediately as Sweden turned the screw.
Debutante Anette Hansson – named in place of usual outside-left Helen Johansson, struck down with myocarditis – burst past Thomas and fired in a cross.
Sundhage’s diving header drew another sprawling save from Wiseman, who was alert enough to get her fingertips on the ball when it was fired straight back in from the right.
Deighan sliced the resultant corner over her own crossbar, to the audible mirth of commentator Grive, but England clung on and scrambled the ball away.
The second-half was nine minutes old before England mounted an attack of their own. Gallimore got her head to the ball in the penalty area, but she was crowded out and could only divert it well wide.
Two minutes later overworked Wiseman made a point blank save by her post. It was Videkull’s header from another of Hansson’s left-wing deliveries. Sweden’s debutantes were proving every bit as tall, athletic and talented as their new team-mates: both went on to have long careers in the Blågult (blue and yellow).
Reagan reacted by substituting Janet Turner on for Pat Chapman on 47 minutes. Chapman gave her sore back a rest while Turner tucked in a bit deeper to try and stem the Swedish tide.
Misinformed commentator Grive announced Turner as Hope Powell, but Cathy Gibb correctly reported it was Turner. Powell – later famous as England’s martinet coach – would have to wait until the second-leg in Luton to get a crack at the Swedes.
Wiseman’s best moment of all came after 49 minutes. Sundhage galloped clear of the English defence and was completely clean through, only for focussed Wiseman to pull off a breathtaking one-on-one save.
On 51 minutes Curl fed Bampton who burst into the box but scuffed England’s golden chance agonisingly wide with the outside of her right boot.
Until then Curl’s contribution had been minimal. Perhaps feeling the effects of her first-half injury she put in a shift but lacked the spark to get any change out of Sweden’s excellent centre-halves Börjesson and Kåberg.
The match swung back down the other end and on 53 minutes Thomas incurred the displeasure of the Dutch referee with a crude hack on Svenjeby, who was turning up everywhere like fine dust.
Thomas’ tackle may have had a whiff of retribution about it, but she went unpunished when Börjesson ballooned the free kick from 20 yards.
Two minutes later skipper Thomas redeemed herself with a great headed clearance off the goal line, with Wiseman beaten. Sundhage nodded the resultant corner onto the crossbar as England’s goal continued to lead a charmed life.
It couldn’t last and Pia Sundhage broke the deadlock on 57 minutes. Burevik was afforded too much space down the Swedish right and hoisted a perfectly measured cross into the danger area.
Wily Sundhage stole between the centre-halves, flashed across Hanson and headed powerfully into the bottom left-hand corner of Terry Wiseman’s goal from six yards out.
On 64 minutes Tony Brightwell was called into action again, this time for Gillian Coultard, who took a heavy knock while effecting a booming clearance. She accepted culprit Hansson’s apology but, sensibly, was in no rush to get up.
Four minutes from full-time, England’s hearts were in their mouths again. Sundhage’s scooped close range shot from a narrow angle bobbled right across the goal line and hit the far post.
Gallimore thwarted Videkull with a desperate sliding challenge in the goalmouth, but Pearce’s tired clearance only reached the edge of the box. Eva Andersson lashed a powerful shot just wide. It was all hands on deck!
Somehow it stayed out and, at 1–0, England lived to fight another day. A second would have been curtains: a two-goal deficit to this Swedish team surely irretrievable.
“Physically we gave everything but we can’t complain about a 1–0 defeat,” was Martin Reagan’s understated verdict.
Swedish goalscorer Pia Sundhage saw the second leg as a mere formality, assuring women’s soccer nut Thorsten Frennstedt: “We won’t miss that many chances for two games in a row”.
In May 1989 England lost their first full match at Wembley Stadium to goals from Swedish greats Pia Sundhage (6) and Lena Videkull (58). The pesky Swedes had previously handed England their first ever defeat in 1975, beat them on penalties in the inaugural 1984 Euro Championship final and edged them out of the 1987 Euro semi-final 3–2 after extra-time.
This match marked the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Football Association (WFA) and was played as a curtain-raiser to the men’s Rous Cup game with Chile. It was the last edition of the Stanley Rous Cup, which had been mired in farce throughout its short history. Stanley Rous was an English former president of FIFA who hated women’s football and was eventually jettisoned for his sickening pro-Apartheid stance.
Three days earlier over 80,000 Scousers had descended on Wembley for the men’s FA Cup final. For the Tuesday night match with Chile, a record low of 15,628 turned out. Those who surmounted a tube strike to get there were subjected to what The Times called a “derisory joke” of a match. England’s understrength men drew 0–0 with Chile, who were only there because numerous other nations had snubbed the invite. An out-of-his-depth John Fashanu delivering a trademark elbow-smash to a hapless Chilean defender was the nadir of a truly grim spectacle.
The Swedish FA gave an attendance figure of 3,150 for the preceding women’s match, which made for an eery atmosphere at the famous old venue. The women, though, served up much more entertaining fayre than their male counterparts. In warm sunshine beneath the twin towers, Sweden’s tough and experienced team, well drilled by pioneering female boss Gunilla Paijkull, soaked up English pressure and twice picked-off their opponents on the break.
(n/u) Marina Persson.12
England’s defence had a makeshift look. Regular right-back Sue Law of Millwall Lionesses was still recovering from a shoulder operation. Solent’s Clare Lambert and Town & County’s Jackie Slack were named in the team published in the morning papers, but neither made the starting line-up. Instead Donny Belles’ Jo Broadhurst and Leasowe’s Jan Murray—both happier playing further forward—were drafted in as wing-backs. It was ‘Psycho’ Murray’s international debut.
Kerry Davis of Napoli and Jane Stanley of Filey led the line, with Linda Curl (Norwich) and Karen Walker (Donny Belles) later emerging from the bench. Leasowe midfielder Maz Harper and second-choice keeper Tracey Davidson, of Donny Belles, were also given substitute outings on Wembley’s hallowed turf.
Ballwinners Gillian Coultard, Jackie Sherrard (both Donny Belles) and captain Debbie Bampton (Millwall Lionesses) were tasked with keeping Sweden out. Friends of Fulham trio Marieanne Spacey, Brenda Sempare and Hope Powell provided the creative flair. At the time Sempare’s skill, vision and positional sense marked her out as one of Europe’s best midfielders. Spacey had jetted back from her loan spell at Finland’s HJK Helsinki to participate.
Goalie Terry Wiseman of Friends of Fulham won her 50th cap. She was beaten after only six minutes when Pia Sundhage scored with a looping header, just as she had in the 1984 final first-leg in Gothenburg.
The report by Times correspondent Andrew Longmore describes England’s “extraordinary profligacy in front of goal”. This was duly punished when deadly striker Lena Videkull lashed in a cross from Helén Johansson on 58 minutes. Helén’s twin sister Ingrid was the Swedish skipper.
Sue Lopez wrote in her book (1997) that the shambolic staging of this match enraged the Swedish FA and UEFA bigwig Lennart Johansson. Their complaints apparently shamed the FA in influencial circles and hastened the demise of the WFA. Lopez did not reveal what in particular about the WFA’s shoestring operation had riled the famously placid Scandinavians.
After getting humiliating public knock-backs from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain and a host of other names, the increasingly desperate English and Scottish FAs needed someone, anyone, to attend their flagging Rous tournament. It is easy to imagine they seriously greased the palms of the Chileans to save further embarrassment. No doubt the Chilean delegation got put up in a top hotel, given fat cigars, suitcases full of cash and fur coats for their wives. Meanwhile the Swedish FA mandarins over for the women’s fixture—still fully-fledged members of a fellow FIFA association—were curtly pointed in the direction of the WFA. If they were lucky, they might have got a couple of soggy sandwiches and some supermarket own-brand crisps!
The Swedish men’s team were in the same qualification group as England for the men’s World Cup and had been at Wembley the previous October, for another 0–0 bore draw. On that occasion it was the Swedish hangers-on who got the red carpet treatment, which probably brought the no-frills setup at this women’s match into sharp relief.
Sweden had finished runners-up to Norway in a prototype World Cup held eleven months earlier. The bulk of their Wembley team went on to compete at the first FIFA-sanctioned World Cup in China ’91, where they finished third.
England had pluckily won the 1988 Mundialito tournament in Italy. But they did not even qualify for China after being badly mauled 6–1 by West Germany in Euro 1991. With England in serious decline compared to other countries who were getting proper support from their national association, veteran coach Martin Reagan was harshly sacked after the Germany result. Reagan had spent several years telling everyone exactly what modest work needed to be done in order to keep up. Sadly those with the clout to make it happen did not lift a finger.
The England team did not evolve, partly because the stony-broke WFA shut down their under-21 team. Until 1991 there was no national league. Doncaster Belles, who supplied five of the 15 at Wembley, routinely walloped local opposition and were only tested in the later rounds of the national cup. Belles and England netminder Tracey Davidson would spend entire league games walking a dog behind the goal and drinking cups of cocoa to keep her hands warm.
The FA finally put the WFA out of its misery and took over direct control of women’s football in 1993. After many more wasted years, it was not until Hope Powell—England’s midfield schemer in this match—took the reins as coach that some painfully slow, incremental progress began to be made.
This match is recorded as England’s first FULL match at Wembley because of another debacle… 1987–88 saw the Football League arrange its centenary celebrations, which for some reason were overseen by colourful Chelsea chairman Ken Bates. Mercantile Credit were roped in as sponsors but pitiful attendances saw the League clubs absorbing huge losses. The WFA lined up Holland for a friendly as part of the main event at Wembley. The Dutch FA (KNVB), when informed at late notice that their slot was only 15 minutes each-way, were fuming and wanted no part of such nonsense. Ireland, who like England lacked the support of their national FA, had no such scruples and the mini game went ahead.