Mundialito Femminile ’84 – The Little World Cup

Martin Reagan’s beaten Euro 84 finalists square off against Belgium, West Germany and Italy in Jesolo and Caorle

Mundialito1984

In the days before the FIFA Women’s World Cup there was the Mundialito…

An invitational tourney along the lines of the latter day Cyprus or Algarve Cups, it was a much bigger deal than these annual seaside jollies: pulling in both bumper crowds and RAI TV coverage.

In summer 1984 football-daft Italians were beside themselves with glee, having carried off the 1982 World Cup and then sealed the 1990 hosting gig in May 1984. Their semi-autonomous women’s football federation (FIGCF) teamed up with the national Olympic committee (CONI) for this joint venture. As well as the national broadcaster and local authority, backing arrived from sportswear company Diadora and La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. All the participating teams’ costs were covered in full – music to the ears of England’s hard up WFA.

CONI’s interest was down to their suspicion that Olympic medals might be afoot – bringing an attendant funding bonanza. They were lobbying hard for Olympic women’s soccer and fancied their chances if it happened. At this stage the United States had no team (they debuted at the following year’s Mundialito) while newbies West Germany had only started their own programme 20 months earlier.

Jesolo was awarded city status in 1984, for services to local tourism. Big in the 70s, its 15 miles of sandy beach was a hot destination for new-fangled package holiday tours. Later on it repositioned itself as a bit classier and more expensive, probably to dodge the sad fate of Benidorm: hordes of braying louts in Union Jack shorts and diced carrots in its gutters.

Jesolo’s stadium was named for Armando Picchi, the great Inter Milan and Italy sweeper. Temporary stands brought the capacity up to a reported 6–8,000. The smaller stadium up the road in Caorle bore the name of Giovanni Chiggiato, a local landowner and worthy from the early part of the century. Matches were apparently played in the cooler evenings at 9.15pm and were 40 minutes each-way.

Results:

Group stage:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
19 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle Italy 1–2 West Germany ITA: Carolina Morace
FRG: Petra Bartelmann, Rosi Eichenlaub
20 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo England 1–1 Belgium ENG: Linda Curl
BEL: Carla Martens
21 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle Italy 4–0 Belgium ITA: Carolina Morace, Betty Vignotto, Rose Reilly, Betty Secci
22 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo West Germany 2–0 England FRG: Silvia Neid (2)
23 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle Belgium 2–0 West Germany BEL: TBC1
24 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo Italy 1–1 England ITA: Carolina Morace
ENG: Linda Curl

Third place play-off:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
25 August Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, Caorle England 2–1 Belgium ENG: Marieanne Spacey, Linda Curl
BEL: TBC (pen)

Final:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
26 August Stadio Armando Picchi, Jesolo Italy 3–1 West Germany ITA: Carolina Morace, Rose Reilly, Betty Vignotto (pen)
GER: Anne Kreuzberg

Hors concours:

Date Venue Team 1 Score Team 2 Scorers
27 August Monfalcone Italy 1–3 England ITA: TBC
ENG: Angie Gallimore, Hope Powell, Pat Chapman

Stadio Armando Picchi:

Some public domain snaps of the stadium in Jesolo, taken in September 2015.

Team notes:

England

Since their gutsy defeat by Sweden in the Euro 84 final shootout, England had lost three loyal campaigners to international retirement. Irish-born goalkeeper Terry Irvine, left-back Maggie Pearce (née Kirkland) and original skipper Sheila Parker (née Porter) were all footballing mums. They went out with heads held high.

Martin Reagan was also without fleet-footed Euro 84 revelation Kerry Davis and midfield terrier Gillian Coultard, who was away on holiday. That gave an opportunity to some fresh blood, including teenaged future-greats Marieanne Spacey (18, Friends of Fulham) and Jo Broadhurst (16, Sheffield).

There were also debut caps for defenders Sallie Jackson (Howbury Grange) and Jackie Slack (Norwich). Slack had skippered Lowestoft to the 1982 WFA Cup. Cup specialist Jackson played alongside Slack in that game and repeated the feat in May 1984 with Howbury Grange.

A few of England’s players had been involved in a six-a-side curtain-raiser to an Everton v Liverpool Charity Shield clash at Wembley, staged the day before the Mundialito started. The bizarre knockabout pitted WFA Cup winners Howbury Grange against national 5-a-side champs Millwall Lionesses. St Helens and a Mersey/Wirral select were also roped in, a sop to the 100,000 scousers in attendance.

The Wembley exertions might explain the sluggish start from England, who fell behind in their opening match when Belgium’s Carla Martens ruthlessly capitalised on new girl Jackie Slack’s error.

Linda Curl brought England level after running onto a Brenda Sempare pass. It was the best possible tonic for Curl, who laid to rest the ghost of her Kenilworth Road penalty miss at the earliest opportunity.

England’s next match was an inauspicious 2–0 reverse at the hands of slick upstarts West Germany. Midfielder Silvia Neid, later named Player of the Tournament, put England to the sword with two well taken goals.

It was to be 31 long years, before Fara Williams’ 2015 World Cup penalty finally ended England’s German hoodoo. Neid, by then the unified Germany manager, was rendered incredulous by her team’s extra-time defeat and failure to land a bronze medal.

In the final group match against the Italian hosts, Linda Curl put England ahead in torrential rain. Morace hit back as the teams ground out an entertaining 1–1 draw in Jesolo. According to the WFA’s one-person media operation, the incomparable Cathy Gibb, Hope Powell “won the Italian crowd over with astounding delicate skills”.

The third place play-off saw another meeting with the underrated Belgians. Spacey lashed England ahead, but profligate finishing proved costly when Jackson’s handball conceded a penalty which pegged it back to 1–1.

Jackson made amends by hitting a long pass to Curl, who expertly rounded Belgian custodian Annie Noë and knocked in her third goal of the tournament to win the match for England.

There was more to come as a hastily-arranged bounce game against an understrength Italian team took place the day after the final. This was just up the coast in Monfalcone, near the border with what was then Yugoslavia.

Some sources describe the opposition as an Italian “B team”, but England’s 3–1 win was notable for Jo Broadhurst’s first Lionesses appearance and Hope Powell’s first international goal. It is also thought that Sue Buckett filled in for Terry Wiseman, marking an emotional farewell between the sticks for the Southampton legend.

It its coverage of the tournament, local broadsheet La Stampa said of the English squad:

“They train running barefoot on the beach, eat in joy, stuff themselves with sweets, seem to appreciate the good Italian wine: for them this “Mundialito” is almost a holiday.”

The same article cited “Patricia Curry” and “Andrienne Powel” as England’s best players – apparently garbled compounds of Hope Powell, Marieanne Spacey, Linda Curl (?) and Pat Chapman.

Andrienne Powel was described as a professional ballerina and coach Martin Reagan as a former Liverpool player.2 Either the hack responsible was the victim of a wind-up, or they were no stranger to appreciation of the good wine themselves!

Italy

Italy had hosted previous tournaments under the auspices of rebel women’s football governing body FIEFF, which had long since been stamped out by peevish rivals UEFA and FIFA.

Mundialito organisers tenuously claimed their lineage from the 1981 International Ladies Football Festival in Japan. Even more tenuously they claimed that Italy were defending a title won at the curious, unfinished Japanese tournament.

Inevitably, the wily Italians had a couple of trump cards up their sleeves. The first was Rose Reilly. A deadly cocktail of pace and power, Reilly was already box office dynamite in Italy’s Serie A. So much so that the Italians were trying to marry the charismatic Kiki Dee look-alike into Italian citizenry.

In November 1972, aged 17, she had starred in Scotland’s first ever international fixture, against England at a frost-bitten Ravenscraig Stadium in Greenock. In the first-half Reilly scored direct from a corner to put the Scots 2–0 ahead, only for the team to somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in time-honoured Scottish style.

RoseReilly1984

Reilly gives her verdict to Italian TV

The Scots made a big play of getting Reilly back in the fold for the winner-take-all Euro qualifier with England at Dumbarton in October 1982. British Caledonian were lined up to jet her in, but her employers at Alaska Lecce (named for their ice cream company backers) had other ideas. Kerry Davis bagged four unanswered goals in England’s romp at the ramshackle Boghead Park ground.

Reilly gave the marriage offers a swerve, but did become an honorary Italian footballer: forming a formidable front three with Carolina Morace and Betty Vignotto.

The Italians’ second trump card was the home officials, who presided over what Cathy Gibb called: “refereeing at its worst”. They waved through three offside goals as Italy drubbed Belgium 4–0, recovering from their shock 2–1 opening day defeat by West Germany.

This set the tone for what was to follow. Some 32 years later at a Mundialito-type event in America, preposterously entitled the SheBelieves Cup, the refereeing was equally diabolical. Although this time it was female referees. And the public no longer had to take Gibb’s word for it, since live BBC television coverage beamed it into the nation’s living rooms.

In 1984 relations between the Italian Women’s FA (FIGCF) and the Italian [male] FA (FIGC) were strained. A telegramme from the Chinese FA inviting the women’s team to a Xi’an tournament in October had not been passed on. Seething, the FIGCF were left pondering whether apathy or spite had underpinned the snub.

The team did get to China but were handed a humiliating 3–2 semi-final defeat by Dallas Sting, a youth club who had been cleared by the USSF to play as the United States. Among the Sting players, mostly high school girls, was Carla Werden (Overbeck) who went on to become a “99er”, an Olympic gold medallist and a full-time professional with the Carolina Courage.

Notes:


1. Women’s Football Archive contacted the Belgian FA (KBVB) to tell them they had this score the wrong way about on their website. But to date they have not replied or fixed their error. Inevitably, the German FA’s “statistik center” is correct!

2. Reagan never played for Liverpool, England’s most successful male club. Although he did play against them three times, twice with Middlesbrough and once with Portsmouth.

Baseball Ground, Derby 28 April 1990 – Doncaster Belles 1–0 Friends of Fulham

Gillian Coultard hits winner as Belles reclaim Cup

Classic match report: North beats South as Doncaster Belles avenge 1985 final defeat by Fulham

Twenty-five years ago Gillian Coultard’s 60th minute goal condemned Friends of Fulham to their second successive WFA Cup final defeat, before 3,000 fans at Derby’s Baseball Ground. It was the Belles’ fourth Cup win from their seventh appearance in the season’s showpiece. Resurgent Doncaster settled a score from their 1985 defeat by the Londoners and also made up for the previous year, when a shock quarter-final defeat by Leasowe Pacific had denied them their annual Cup final outing.

Channel 4 provided coverage of this, the competition’s 20th final, with an hour-long highlights programme screened at 5.30pm the following day.

The top-flight stadium in Derby was free because Derby County men were away at Man City that day. They won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Mark Wright, who was playing his way into Bobby Robson’s Italia ’90 squad.

Back at the Baseball Ground a crowd of 3,111 showed up for the women’s final. Not spectacular, but still three times more than the paltry turnout who rattled around inside Old Trafford at the previous season’s showpiece.

Although the Baseball Ground was notorious for the often shocking state of its pitch, this match took place on a warm, sunny day with conditions dry and hard underfoot.

Neither team were clad in their traditional colours. Doncaster Belles were in royal blue shirts with white shorts, while Friends of Fulham donned a fetching “yellow and emerald” affair.


Background

Doncaster Belles entered the final unbeaten for four seasons in their regional League. Friends of Fulham had won their sixth consecutive Home Counties League Cup two weeks before.

The teams had met in the 1985 final at Craven Cottage, when two goals in three first-half minutes from Cheryl McAdam and Cathy Hynes gave Friends of Fulham a 2–0 win to claim their first Cup. It was known as The Sempare Final after a virtuoso display by England midfielder Brenda.

Two years previously the Belles reached their first final only after a titanic semi-final with Friends of Fulham at Imber Court Metropolitan Police Ground. After Elaine Cozens had cancelled out Denise Pittock’s opener to bring Fulham level, Lorraine Hanson’s thumping header sent the Belles through.

These closely-fought previous meetings ensured that the teams approached their latest encounter with a healthy degree of mutual respect.


Road to Derby

En route to the final Friends of Fulham beat Arsenal Ladies 4–0 in the quarter-final at Enfield Town. Marieanne Spacey scored the opening goal against the Gunners, her future employers.

In the semi-final at Millwall’s Den, Friends of Fulham triumphed 3–0 over tough Lancastrian outfit Preston Rangers. Another goal from Spacey and a Brenda Sempare double did the damage. Women’s football writer and historian Gail Newsham was playing for Preston that day and still recalls with some pride her tackle on Spacey, or her “claim to fame”!

In the quarter-final, Doncaster Belles exacted crushing revenge on Cup holders Leasowe Pacific. The Merseysiders had the temerity to boot the Belles out at the same stage the previous year, but were swept aside 5–0 this time.

The semi-final game at Millwall produced an even more ruthless display, as a St Helens team in sad decline were beaten 7–0. Gail Borman and Jackie Sherrard scored hat-tricks to add to Karen Skillcorn’s strike.


England friendships on hold

Belles’ midfield general Gillian Coultard went into the 1990 final at her imperious best. Newly-installed as national skipper in the absence of crocked Debbie Bampton, she had struck the only goal as England beat Belgium 1–0 at Bramall Lane three weeks previously.

Spacey and Sempare lined up alongside Coultard in Sheffield, but old friendships were put on ice for 90 minutes while Cup winner’s medals were at stake.

England’s Belgium victory was achieved with Fulham’s Terry Wiseman on the bench, as her long-time understudy Tracey Davidson got the nod from England boss Martin Reagan. Wiseman had a cracked rib, a legacy of Friends of Fulham’s semi-final against Preston.

The friendly rivalry continued with both goalkeepers at opposite ends of the pitch for the Cup final. Both were desperate to impress, with big qualifying games against Norway and Germany coming up and the first ever FIFA-sanctioned World Cup looming on the horizon.

Derby County and England keeper Peter Shilton had an open training session with Wiseman and Davidson the day before the final. The Women’s Football Association hoped it would serve as a photo op and drum up some much-needed publicity.

Since Wiseman’s England career overlapped with Shilton’s she was inevitably branded his female equivalent. As a girlhood Nottingham Forest fan Davidson had idolised “Shilts”, who held England’s all-time cap record until he was surpassed by Rachel Yankey in July 2013.


Teams – Friends of Fulham

Wiseman took her place in goal but was among Fulham’s walking wounded, as a bruising season of club and international football took its toll.

The right-back was Lori Hoey, resplendent as always in her Johan Cruyff-style number 14 jersey. An experienced campaigner, she had three England caps including one from the Euro 87 semi-final defeat by Sweden. She might have had more caps but for the form of Carol Thomas and Sue Law.

Promising England under-21 cap Mandy O’Callaghan played at left-back. At centre-back Friends of Fulham named Karen Gale, a revelation since signing that season from lower-division Bracknell Ladies.

BELLES
1. Tracey Davidson
2. Julie Chipchase
3. Louise Ryde
4. Jackie Sherrard
5. Loraine Hunt
6. Michelle Jackson
7. Jo Broadhurst (out 80)
8. Gillian Coultard
9. Karen Walker
10.Gail Borman
11.Karen Skillcorn

Substitutes:
12.Yvonne Bagley (in 80)
13.Lorraine Young
14.Sue Herring
15.Claire Large
16.Sheila Edmunds

Coach:
Paul Edmunds

FULHAM
Terry Wiseman .1
Deborah Fox .2
Mandy O’Callaghan .3
Karen Gale .4
Marieanne Spacey .6
(out 52) Cheryl McAdam .7
Brenda Sempare .8
Lynn Jacobs .9
Olivia Hughes.10
Fiona Curl.11
(out 84) Lori Hoey.14

Substitutes:
(in 52) Terri Springett .5
(in 84) Dorrett Wilson.12
Cathy Hynes.13
Julie McCauley.15
Clare Healy.16

Coach:
Fred Brockwell

Alongside Gale was another new signing, Welsh international Deborah Fox – a seasoned campaigner who cut her teeth at Maidstone beside Wendy Owen and already boasted a winner’s medal collected with Howbury Grange in 1984.

The Fox–Gale axis at the heart of Fulham’s defence unshackled Marieanne Spacey who had spent much of the previous season playing at centre-half. Instead, her quicksilver blend of brawn and brilliance was put to use in midfield.

Fiona Curl and Brenda Sempare – the star of the 1985 final – joined Spacey in a midfield three. Record-goalscorer Cheryl McAdam and livewire youngster Livvy Hughes flanked reigning club Player of the Year Lynn Jacobs in attack. Jacobs was preferred to Republic of Ireland cap Cathy Hynes, who warmed the bench alongside utility player Terry Springett (daughter of Ron).

Since their defeat in the previous year’s final, Friends of Fulham had lost the talent and goals of Hope Powell who had returned to Millwall Lionesses. The club had also installed a new manager in Fred Brockwell, whose predecessor George Curl stayed on as a coach.


Teams – Doncaster Belles

Davidson lined up in her fifth Cup final for the Belles. She had stood in for Janet Milner in 1983, then returned to the club two years later to play in the 1986, 1987 and 1988 events. She famously saved Ali Leatherbarrow’s penalty in 1987 to help break the club’s Cup final hoodoo of three successive defeats.

Future Belles boss Julie Chipchase was at right back with high-kicking Taekwondo champ Louise Ryde in the other full-back berth.

Michelle “Mickey” Jackson and Loraine Hunt were the centre-halves. Both were bank workers who also played for England. Hunt was a stylish sweeper who modelled her game on Franz Beckenbauer and Ray Wilkins.

That did not square with her club nickname (“bone head”) which hinted at a willingness to get stuck in where the boots were flying!

England regulars Coultard and Jackie Sherrard formed a central midfield partnership of commitment, courage, stamina and skill. Football maverick Jo Broadhurst was a nominal right winger with license to get on the ball wherever possible. She was nursing a toe injury reportedly caused by falling down the stairs at home.

Diligent utility player Karen Skillcorn was deployed on the left flank. She was in the terrific form which won her a couple of England caps before a “Gazza knee” laid her low.

Striking powerhouse Karen Walker led the line alongside Gail Borman. The week after the Cup final Borman crowned her England debut with a goal, in a 4–0 win over Auld Enemy Scotland at Love Street, Paisley.

Coach Paul Edmunds risked the ire of wife Sheila by naming the club founder and two-goal hero of the 1983 win on the bench. Since their last Cup win two years previously the Belles had lost club stalwart Lorraine Hanson to retirement.


The Match

Seven minutes into the game, Coultard needed extensive treatment after being unceremoniously dumped by England pal Spacey. Broadhurst’s free kick was on target but smartly touched over the bar by an alert Wiseman.

Friends of Fulham were working like Trojans to limit the Belles’ chances, but they still relied heavily on the inspired form of goalkeeper Wiseman. England’s Euro 84 legend made notable first-half saves from Sherrard and Walker.

While Fulham were never overrun – they were much too good for that – they struggled to impose their own attacking armoury on the game. Spacey ended up marking Coultard, while Brenda Sempare could not run the show as she had in the sides’ 1985 final at Craven Cottage.

An efficient, well-oiled unit under coach Edmunds, Doncaster Belles favoured a high-tempo pressing game. They hunted in packs and quickly swarmed round opposition threats in twos and threes.

Karen Walker was locked in a running battle with flinty Deborah Fox, who had an excellent game. Walker’s string of neat passes and flicked headers fed Borman, whose tireless running occupied the rest of the Fulham defence.

The all-important goal came on the hour. Marauding Gillian Coultard played a one-two with Borman and hit an accurate drive into the side of the net from just outside the penalty area. Unsighted by a stray defender, Wiseman was finally beaten.

Coultard, sporting a new perm for the television cameras, was always at the heart of the action. In the second-half she returned Spacey’s first-half compliment, clattering Fulham’s club captain into a heap.

Then Springett, on for McAdam who had tweaked her Achilles tendon, decked Coultard for the second time in the match and was promptly booked by Barnsley ref Dave Phillips.

On 80 minutes Edmunds shored things up by replacing Broadhurst with defender Yvonne Bagley. The Belles held on to win the Cup although Fulham never stopped fighting and Spacey was crowded out by a packed defence in the final moments.

Outspoken former Man United boss Tommy “The Doc” Docherty hailed Coultard’s strike as one of the goals of the season.

Match: England 0–2 Sweden, 23 May 1989, Wembley

Wembley Stadium 23 May 1989 – England 0–2 Sweden

Old foes Sweden put one over on England AGAIN

Classic match report: The story of England women’s first football match at Wembley Stadium

Two women footballers challenge for the ball in the bottom right of the picture

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.

Background


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.

Match


ENGLAND
1. Theresa Wiseman
2. Joanne Broadhurst
3. Janice Murray
4. Debbie Bampton (c)
5. Jackie Sherrard
6. Gillian Coultard
7. Hope Powell
8. Brenda Sempare
9. Marieanne Spacey
10.Kerry Davis
11.Jane Stanley

Substitutes:
12.Linda Curl
14.Karen Walker
15.Maria Harper
17.Tracey Davidson

Coach:
Martin Reagan

SVERIGE
Elisabeth Leidinge .1
Camilla Fors .2
Marie Karlsson .3
Anette Hansson .4
Eva Zeikfalvy .5
Åsa Persson .6
(c) Ingrid Johansson .7
Helén Johansson .8
Pia Sundhage .9
Ulrika Kalte.10
Lena Videkull.11

Substitutes:
(n/u) Marina Persson.12
Pia Syrén.13
Camilla Andersson.14
Eleonor Hultin.15
Malin Swedberg.16

Coach:
Gunilla Paijkull

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.

Legacy


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.

And finally…


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.