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
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.
|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
|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)
|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
|Date||Venue||Team 1||Score||Team 2||Scorers|
|27 August||Monfalcone||Italy||1–3||England||ITA: TBC
ENG: Angie Gallimore, Hope Powell, Pat Chapman
Some public domain snaps of the stadium in Jesolo, taken in September 2015.
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 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.
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.
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! ↩
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently retired Arsenal stalwart Faye White was named in the English Football Hall of Fame this month. While Kelly Smith and Rachel Brown are nailed–on certs to join White in the next couple of years. Who could begrudge these warriors their place in the pantheon of greats? Not Women’s Football Archive, that’s for sure. But where does that leave earlier players, already overlooked for too long? Here’s five whose bizarre exclusion makes the whole thing a JOKE…
Theresa ‘Terry’ Wiseman England’s number one throughout the eighties: tritely dubbed “the female Shilton”. London-born, she guarded the nets with distinction at Spurs, Maidstone, Howbury Grange and Friends of Fulham, winning back-to-back W.F.A. Cups and some 60 England caps. Also an animator who worked on Raymond Briggs’ masterpiece The Snowman and ended up Stateside, working for Disney Pixar. A cornerstone of England’s Euro 1984 successes, she repeatedly thwarted Pia Sundhage and pals in the final first–leg in Gothenburg.
Kerry Davis Burst on the scene in 1982 with two goals against Northern Ireland in Crewe. Hit two in the Belfast return, notched the only goal in Dublin, all four in Scotland and finished England’s historic Euro 84 campaign with 11 goals in 11 games. Signed by Lazio in 1985, she spent four years as a Serie A pro, also playing for Trani and Napoli. Turned out for Knowsley (Liverpool), Croydon and Millwall Lionesses on the Premier League circuit.
A favourite of 90s England boss Ted Copeland: her time in Italy made her a diligent trainer and gave her a physical confidence often lacking in female players. Went to the 1995 World Cup as a veteran. Adroit, versatile, elusive, loyal, she plundered upwards of 40 goals for the Three Lionesses in a 16-year career.
Carol Thomas (née McCune) England’s time-served skipper from 1976 to 1985 who made the Guinness Book of Records when she crashed the 50-cap barrier. A redoubtable right-back from Hull with a tigeress-ish tackle. Certifiably football-daft, she tied the knot in 1979 and went to the Euros in Italy by way of a honeymoon! Played club soccer for Hull Brewery, Preston Rangers, CP Doncaster and Rowntrees FC of York. The protégée of much-loved Flo Bilton, who loomed large over women’s football in the East Riding of Yorkshire and beyond.
Sue Buckett One of a few Southampton WFC candidates to belatedly join Sue Lopez, the sole Saints inductee, in the national Hall of Fame. Buckett was England’s first goalie in 1972, whose incredible longevity saw her playing in the Women’s National Premier League some 20 years later. She backstopped the peerless Southampton WFC side to an avalanche of silverware and won 30 England caps in a 12-year national team career.
Linda Curl Goalscoring policewoman who made her England bow at 15 and retired as the all-time record cap holder. A big game player who popped up with crucial goals for Martin Reagan‘s genuinely top class England team. Another Euro 84 hero who scored in both the semi-final and final. Curl was not slow in striking goals for her clubs either, firing both Lowestoft and Norwich to W.F.A. Cup glory before winding down her playing days with spells at Town & County and Ipswich Town.
None of these players had a central contract. They didn’t get glossy photo shoots or expenses-paid jollies to La Manga and Cyprus. But they all made sacrifices over many years to write their names indelibly in the annals of English football history. Honourable mentions go to Pat Chapman, Liz Deighan and Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb), further proof—should it be needed—that women’s football in England did not start in 1993.
LOOK at this video from the Women’s Euro 1984 final. MovementSoccer deserves thanks for posting it – as well as the whole final it came from – on YouTube here.
It was a mightily big game in English football history. It’s heady stuff but only a tiny subset of soccer anoraks will appreciate it: a niche within a niche! Pearls before swine! I get all that.
Also, poking fun at England goalie Terry Wiseman’s kicking is only a little joke. Some gentle joshing. After all, irreverence (“bantz”) is the whole currency of “teh Interwebz”. I get that too.
There is a serious point in here somewhere though. And not just the point that Wiseman produced a string of top saves in that very game. Saves that Hope Solo herself might be proud of.
Watch that whole match and fair’s fair: no-one on the pitch in 1984 could keep goal like modern great Hope Solo. Nor could they run like a Lotta Schelin, or shoot like a Lotta Schelin. Or Alex Morgan, or Christen Press.
Nobody was as half as strong as Abby Wambach. I remember the USA playing at Leyton Orient in 2011, in the tunnel pre-match they were geeing themselves up by whooping and hollering in the American style.
Then Abby high-fived a flunkey and damn near tore the guy’s arm off!
Eh… anyway, in 1984 these players were out there, doing it. Making the sacrifices necessary to get these tournaments off the ground.
They had the dedication to train in their own time at their own cost. Taking unpaid leave from their jobs to proudly pull on their country’s shirt.
Their reward? Often sneering derision. Sometimes even medieval ignorance and bigotry. Hostile governing bodies wishing they’d all just disappear.
The “USWNT” (if you must) didn’t start until the following year. England – Wiseman and all – bashed them 3–1 in the teams’ first meeting.
We all know the USA kicked on from there and started winning everything in sight. But remember that without the likes of Terry Wiseman this would never have happened. There’d be no tournaments to win. No-one to beat. No-one who cared enough to watch!
Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo trains full-time, has the benefit of modern sports science and is at leisure to spend all day in the gym. Of course she can kick the ball further!
Probably even a size four miniature like the one Wiseman was trying to adjust to in the vid.
Probably even on a windy day in Gothenburg (where Solo once spent a season) with the sun in her eyes.
Commercial Artist Wiseman got to the top in two careers and now lives in America herself, working for Disney Pixar. Her footballing achievements remain criminally unrecognised at home.
But for the likes of Wiseman and Elisabeth Leidinge down the other end, the ones who got the ball rolling, every incremental success that women’s football gets is part of their legacy.
So let’s lay off the mickey taking. Or if we can’t lay off it, at least give it some context.
Now look here, Hope Solo is a great champion and would have hit the big time in whichever direction she went.
But if Terry Wiseman’s generation hadn’t paved the way, who’s to say it would have been in saving soccer balls?
It might have been in chucking a ball into a hoop. Or hitting a little ball with a bat. Or leaving the ball out altogether and running round a track.
It might have come in the national sport: dressing up as a sofa and excitedly running into other people dressed as sofas.
Where, you may ask, would the USWNT be then?
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”.
The final first-leg was staged at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium; that’s the main Nya (new) Ullevi, not the smaller Gamla (old) Ullevi which the Swedish women’s national team use today.
The following year disaster was narrowly averted when Ullevi hosted a Bruce Springsteen concert. ‘The Boss’ and his E Street band whipped 64,000 locals into such a frenzy that they nearly brought the house down – literally. The owners had to shell out nearly £3m in repairs.
There was never any danger of collapse here, but the reported 5,662 crowd did represent a new record for a women’s game in Sweden. That figure looked a conservative estimate too, as the ground held 50,000+ back then and the grandstand looked pretty full.
Sweden’s national broadcaster Sveriges Television were in evidence, with commentary provided by veteran sportscaster Bengt Grive. It was a bright, clear day and the pitch was in very reasonable condition with just a few dry spots amongst the luscious green.
Beautiful big stadium, decent pitch, record crowd… “let’s play some football,” England’s players must have thought.
This was the seventh time the teams had gone head-to-head, with Sweden victorious on three occasions. One win came on a penalty shootout after a 0–0 draw. The other games also finished level, leaving England still looking for their first win.
In the first ever meeting at Ullevi in June 1975, Sweden put a stick in previously unbeaten England’s spokes to win 2–0. A gangly 15-year-old named Pia Sundhage made her debut, while Ann Jansson scored both goals.
Proving that was no flash in the pan, the Swedes visited Plough Lane, Wimbledon in September 1975 and casually drubbed England 3–1. The English Women’s Football Association were reeling after sponsors pulled out and the match left them seriously out of pocket.
The next meeting was in July 1979, a third place play-off between two demoralised teams at the unofficial (non-UEFA backed) Euro 1979. Sweden prevailed on penalties when the game in Scafati, Italy finished goalless.
In September 1980 Filbert Street, Leicester, hosted a 1–1 friendly draw. Then in May 1982 a return friendly at Viskavallen, Kinna, also finished 1–1 over 90 minutes. Swedish TV broadcast the Kinna game and awarded Player of the Match Gill Coultard a snazzy tracksuit.
England boss Martin Reagan betrayed his military background with a brilliantly matter-of-fact match report in the WFA News:
On Tuesday May 25th, our party consisting of fourteen players, Officer-in-charge Sheila Rollinson, Physio Tony Brightwell and I assembled at Heathrow for an 11 a.m. departure for Sweden. On arrival at Gothenburg (2 p.m. Swedish time) we then travelled 12 miles to our hotel on the outskirts of Gothenburg…
Tracy Doe hit both England’s goals in these two friendlies, the one in 1980 was her third in three caps. For some reason Doe wasn’t included in the squad for this 1984 final but was listed in Howbury Grange’s line-up the previous week, alongside Bampton and Wiseman, as the Kent team outclassed Doncaster Belles 4–2 in the WFA Cup final at Sincil Bank, Lincoln.
Another friendly in October 1983 finished honours even. Two-all this time, at Charlton Athletic’s The Valley, in south-east London.
More generally, Sweden were enjoying something of a cultural renaissance: the week before the final had seen Herrey’s Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley triumph at the Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg. Great Britain’s effort, Love Games by Belle & The Devotions, was mercilessly booed and limped home in seventh place.
England were unchanged from the Denmark semi-final. Howbury Grange goalkeeper Terry Wiseman, her hair in trademark bunches, won her 18th cap. Skipper Carol Thomas (née McCune) of Rowntrees in York started at right-back, with Southampton’s vastly experienced Maggie Pearce (née Kirkland) at left-back. According to the return match programme Pearce won a 39th cap, while Thomas was credited with a 44th.
Angie Gallimore of Broadoak Ladies in Manchester formed a centre-back pairing with Doncaster Belles’ Lorraine Hanson (née Dobb), who had a heavily strapped left thigh. Gallimore sported a Marouane Fellaini-style perm and had been the left-back until switching inside to accommodate the return of Pearce from childbirth. As a callow 15-year-old, Pearce had been England’s first ever left-back against Scotland in November 1972. She returned to the fold in May 1982.
Versatile Hanson often played as a striker for the Belles so neither her or Gallimore were archetypal British centre-halves. That seemed to suit Reagan’s system as both could play out from the back, or if Swedish dangerwoman Pia Sundhage dropped deep they could go with her. Hanson won her 26th cap and Gallimore her 13th.
Much was asked of the midfield in Reagan’s flexible 4–3–3, which comprised Debbie Bampton, Gill Coultard and Liz Deighan. Nominally the central, holding midfielder, Bampton had just captained Howbury Grange to WFA Cup success. She was on the comeback trail after a bad injury and picked up the 12th cap of a long and glittering career.
Tigerish tackler Coultard won her 15th cap. Although synonymous with Doncaster Belles, she was playing for Rowntrees at the time: the works team from York’s big confectionery factory. She also played hockey for Rowntrees, even after going back to the Belles.
Liz Deighan was the third member of England’s midfield trio and, at 30, the oldest member of the starting XI. A slight but sinewy figure, bristling with energy, North-easterner Deighan played for St. Helens and collected a 35th cap.
On the left wing, Southampton’s Pat Chapman shrugged off a back injury to win her 28th cap. She’d been crocked in the Denmark semi-final, but also laid on the cross for Bampton’s winning header in Hjørring. Linda Curl of Norwich Ladies wore number 9 and won her 31st cap at the age of just 22.
Kerry Davis of Crewe Ladies started on the right, but with license to roam. An exceptional 21-year-old athlete with pace to burn, Davis clearly had the raw materials to reach the top in any sport. It was unusual in those days for football to win out, given the lack of rewards on offer. But England were sure glad it did: livewire Davis won her tenth cap and had already blasted 11 goals.
England’s substitute’s bench combined youth with experience. Friends of Fulham’s Brenda Sempare and Millwall Lioness Hope Powell, aged 22 and 17 respectively, were the young Tyros. Both midfielders debuted in the 6–0 rout of Ireland at Reading the previous September and had three caps apiece.
At the other end of the career spectrum was England’s original skipper Sheila Parker (née Porter), who had 30 caps. Parker began her career with Preston Ladies (the famous Dick, Kerr’s. Yes: Dick, Kerr’s, if you please!) Her astonishing career was a thread of continuity running through the different eras of women’s football in England. Along with Deighan she’d played for St. Helens in their 1983 WFA Cup final defeat and had moved on to Chorley.
Completing the squad was six times capped Terry Irvine, 32, Wiseman’s goalkeeping understudy who played for Aylesbury. And Janet Turner, a specialist left-winger who had also been in St. Helens’ 1983 Cup final team but had recently joined Kerry Davis at Crewe. Turner was the only sub to be used in Gothenburg and she collected a 12th cap.