The 90min Moments series delves into the most iconic goals, matches and occasions in football history through the eyes of those who were there. Ahead of Euro 2022, we look back at Karen Carney’s last winner in England’s 3-2 victory over Finland at Euro 2005.
Euro 2005 marked the first time England hosted a major women’s football tournament and provided an opportunity to bring national attention to a sport that is still trying to break into the mainstream.
England manager Hope Powell had a relatively young group of players to choose from ahead of the home Championship, with experience in the form of Arsenal defenders Faye White and Mary Phillip, while teenage talents Karen Carney and Eni Aluko were also vying for selection.
“When I was 16 I used to take the train home from Loughborough once a week, and I used to go with my huge bag full of kit and my mum would do my laundry,” Karen Carney said. 90min. “And on the train trip home, I had my motivational music on and I was thinking: I want to get to these euros, I’m going to get there, I’m going to get there.”
The landscape of women’s football in England 17 years ago was very different from what Euro 2022 players will appreciate; there was no top professional level, no central contracts for England players and certainly no historic broadcast deal. Women’s football was a niche sport with a small, dedicated fan base; a cult indie band.
“There was always a community of female footballers and people who wanted to watch matches,” England’s Euro 2005 captain Faye White recalled. “In 2004 and 2005 we played the FA Cup finals in front of 25,000 people so people who knew where to look could hear about it. But in 2005 when we staged it the majority didn’t know, it was just really the people from that neighborhood.”
Eight teams took part in the tournament, which took place over a fortnight exclusively in the North West of England. Bloomfield Road, Manchester City Stadium, Ewood Park, Deepdale and Halliwell Jones Stadium were the venues.
“There was a buzz in the north of the country,” explained former England full-back Phillip. “If you were in London you didn’t know it existed. You didn’t know England had a women’s team hosting the European finals. In the north you heard about it a bit more and there was a little publicity.”
“When we arrived by car to go to the hotel near the matches, it was sudden: oh, there is a poster!” White added. “UEFA had marked some of the stadiums and some of the bus stops along the way, and it was really good to be part of something. We were finally paying attention.”
The Lionesses were not expected to progress particularly far at Euro 2005. They had qualified for only one of the previous four major tournaments and their funding and resources were dwarfed by other nations. While not assuming the expectations that the 2022 Lionesses will experience, the 2005 England side played knowing that their performances could transform the face of their sport.
“Every tournament we went to, we always knew if we were doing something special, if we were getting to a final, if we were winning it: wow, how huge would that be to change the perspective (of women’s football)” , England winger Rachel Yankey explained. “Because people see women’s football in one (way) but if you get to a final people don’t really care if it’s women’s football, they’ll just support because it’s the ‘England.”
As the novelty of seeing their faces on notice boards and bus stops began to set in, real football began for England with an opener against Finland at the City of Manchester Stadium – now the Etihad.
“I remember traveling for the game and seeing loads of people outside the pubs and cheering and thinking: where are they going? I couldn’t really match it all up” , recalls Yankey. “Seeing people go to games with your name on the back of their shirt was just kind of weird and weird, but kinda cool.”
The match drew a crowd of 29,092 – a Women’s Euro record at the time.
“Seeing the stadium so full, we weren’t often used to it, especially in England,” added White. “I had played in tournaments overseas who were used to it, but not in England. To be recognized here was like: yes, we finally did it!”
Attendance is still the second highest in Women’s Euro history and remains the all-time record for a group game at the Championships. An additional 2.9 million viewers tuned in to BBC Two.
“I didn’t realize how big it was,” Carney said. “As a 17-year-old to play in front of those crowds, to be on BBC TV, I hadn’t realized how important that was.”
The five-figure crowd was treated to quite the encounter.
“I just remember the adrenaline and the jitters, for almost a week,” White said. “That first game is always the focus for so long and then you get past that and it’s bang, bang, bang.”
England took a 2-0 lead at half-time thanks to an own goal from Sanna Valkonen and a header from Amanda Barr. Anna-Kaisa Rantanen halved the deficit early in the second period, before Laura Kalmari leveled Finland in the 88th minute. The Lionesses’ moment on the big stage seems to have been snatched away from them.
Enter Carney, 17.
“She was the young player on the team; young, dynamic, full of life,” Phillip recalled. “I just wanted to be on the pitch playing, the ball at his feet, you couldn’t stop him.”
As three minutes of stoppage time was announced above the tannoy, Carney received the ball at the edge of the box and passed Rantanen, before splitting the Finnish backline with an assist to put Aluko through on goal .
The England striker’s shot was saved and fell into the feet of Carney, who sent the ball past a flurry of Finnish bodies and into the top corner.
“To see him hit the back of the net was so uplifting,” Phillip said. “It was such a workout and it just put the team on the right track. You couldn’t think of a better way to start.”
And Carney’s party?
“She started swearing, then got scolded by her mom,” Yankey added. “I still find that hilarious.”
The sweeping win over Finland would be England’s only win at Euro 2005, and they were knocked out in the group stage after defeats to Denmark and Sweden. Life has returned to normal.
“I would go back to work afterwards,” White said. “After the tournament, I went back to my job.”
Euro 2005 introduced women’s football to a whole new audience, with 115,816 fans attending the 15 matches. However, the post-tournament momentum was short-lived.
“Every tournament we were in, after the tournament was stopped or we were eliminated, it was kind of over and nobody wanted to know anymore,” Yankey recalled.
Although Euro 2005 did not transform English women’s football into a mainstream sport overnight, it was one of a small series of milestones that brought the game to the dawn of a record summer at Euro 2022.
The following year, England qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1995 and reached the quarter-finals. In 2009, 17 England players received central contracts and the Lionesses reached the European Championship final later that year. The 2012 Olympics catapulted women’s football into the mainstream, and England have been regular semi-finalists at major tournaments since 2015.
“I don’t think Hope Powell gets enough credit for what she’s done for women’s football,” Yankey said. “At a time when I don’t think many could appreciate how difficult it would be to be, one: a woman, and two: a black woman standing in a position where people, let’s be honest, didn’t care too much on women’s football.
“And you’re there fighting, saying you want more money, you want more support. She moved things further, players got central contracts, performance improved.
“That’s why I say 2005 wasn’t about us going to win the tournament. It was about understanding who we are and moving forward so that in subsequent tournaments we can improve. more and more. So I think the basics were put in place and she definitely fought for it.”
Tickets for Euro 2022 are available now on www.uefa.com/womenseuro/ticketing