Going For Gold: Chelsea Women In Major International Finals
From the official Chelsea FC website:
Chelsea Women will have at least one member of the winning squad at the European Championship after England and Germany meet in the final on Sunday, but do you know how well our players have got on in previous matches when major international silverware has been on the line?
Thirteen years on from reaching their last final at a Euro, England will have a shot at the trophy on home soil when the Lionesses host Germany at Wembley Stadium to close out what has been a fantastic tournament.
Should Sarina Wiegman’s squad emerge victorious, the Blues will have four very happy players with winner’s medals: Millie Bright, Jess Carter, Bethany England and Fran Kirby. However, if it’s a record-extending ninth European Championship triumph for Germany, Ann-Katrin Berger will have a gold medal around her neck.
Although this is the first time both finalists at a major tournament have had current Chelsea Women players in their squad, if we include those who either played for or went on to represent the club at a later date, there haven’t been many tournaments in recent times that have concluded without a Blues link…
England boss Wiegman is looking to keep a tight grip on a trophy she won with the Netherlands in 2017. On that occasion, in a hugely entertaining tournament won on home soil, the Dutch had Jackie Groenen in their ranks.
The midfielder might be better known as a Manchester United player, but her first steps in the WSL were taken with Chelsea back in 2014.
Groenen was in the team that won the trophy against surprise finalists Denmark, led by one of world football’s leading players, Pernille Harder. Little did we know that three years on from this game she would join the Blues for a world-record transfer fee.
Not only was Harder captain of the Danish side, she was their star player too, but despite her goal in the final making it 2-2 midway through the first half, the Dutch stepped up another gear and eventually won 4-2.
Four years earlier, Germany claimed their eighth European Championship, which is six more than their nearest rivals, and the side they beat in the 2013 final, Norway.
Maren Mjelde was playing at right-back for the Scandinavian side on that occasion as they lost 1-0, although it could have been a different story had the assistant referee’s flag not been raised to rule out an Ada Hegerberg equaliser from a Mjelde cross. Although she didn’t feature in the final, Melanie Leupolz was part of the Germany squad for that tournament.
At Euro 2009, Germany were in the final yet again, facing off against England – and the Lionesses team was packed full of players who had played, or would go on to play for, Chelsea.
Karen Carney, who scored England’s first in a 6-2 defeat, was one of six in Hope Powell’s starting XI who has a Blues connection, along with Casey Stoney, who was Chelsea’s player-manager at the time, Anita Asante, Eniola Aluko, Fara Williams and Katie Chapman.
There was more Chelsea representation on the bench, too, as Siobhan Chamberlain, Dani Buet (now Bowman) and Lianne Sanderson played for us at that time, while Laura Bassett went on to join us five years later.
It’s not just on the European stage that we’ve been well represented in finals, although the World Cup finalists on this list weren’t current Blues at the time.
Groenen may have been part of an exclusive group of victorious players in the previous list looking at the European Championship, but she was unable to help the Netherlands complete an incredible double by adding the World Cup to the trophy cabinet two years later.
Still under the guidance of Wiegman, the Dutch kept the same formula that helped them overcome Europe’s best, but they came up against a USA side who have dominated the women’s game for decades.
We’ve not had too many players from across the Pond – although we’ll come on to another one later – but Crystal Dunn was a fans’ favourite during her time in Blue thanks to her high-energy performances down the left flank. She was a crucial part of the USA side that won the final 2-0, which meant her country won back-to-back World Cups.
In their triumph four years earlier, an ex-Chelsea player was in the ranks of the beaten finalists. Yuki Ogimi (now Nagasato) had been one of the early overseas superstars signed during the Emma Hayes era, but her star shone brightly but all too briefly as a Blue, with her departure preceding our period of unprecedented success.
Ogimi didn’t just play in the 2015 final in Vancouver, Canada – she found the back of the net. Unfortunately, her Japan side were already 4-0 down at the time to a rampant USA side, who went on to win 5-2.
However, Ogimi does have happier memories of a World Cup final against the USA. Japan won the 2011 final against them on penalties after a 2-2 draw, although she was the only player from her side to miss in the shootout. But who remembers something like that when you get your hands on the trophy at the end of it?
We’ve also had a Brazilian player involved in a World Cup final, although quite a few of you may be scratching your head trying to remember this all-too-brief Blue. Ester was a midfielder who was greeted at the club by her compatriots David Luiz, Oscar and Ramires, but she lasted just a few months before moving on. Long before her time at Chelsea she’d played in Brazil’s 2-0 defeat to Germany in the 2007 final.
For our last World Cup finalist we’ve got to go back to the last century, albeit this was a seismic tournament that changed the face of women’s football forever.
You’ve probably seen the iconic celebration by Brandi Chastain that followed her winning penalty in the shootout win over China, which took place in front of more than 90,000 supporters at the Rose Bowl in California. What you probably won’t remember is that they had a young squad player called Lorrie Fair, who eight years later moved to Chelsea for an injury-hit spell with the club.
Although the Olympic football tournament is rarely considered a major honour in the men’s game, with squads made up of Under-23s and a few overage players, in women’s football it has long been a prestigious prize.
Of course, when the last Olympics took place in Tokyo last summer, we found ourselves in a similar position to Sunday, when a Chelsea player was guaranteed to bring home the gold.
In the end it was Jessie Fleming’s Canada who did just that, with the Blues midfielder on target in the final against Sweden, and one of her team-mates from that triumph, Kadeisha Buchanan, has now joined the club. However, for Magda Eriksson, Jonna Andersson and Zecira Musovic, plus ex-Blues Hedvig Lindahl and Sofia Jakobsson, it was a silver medal.
For all but Musovic from the Swedish contingent, it meant two straight second-place finishes in the Olympic tournament, as five years earlier they had also fallen to Germany in Rio. There was joy for another future Blues player, however, as Leupolz had a gold medal around her neck after playing in the final.
In fact, there’s not been much success for our players at this tournament. Although Ogimi was on target yet again in a major final, this time in 2012 at Wembley, Japan were beaten by the USA. And four years earlier it was the same old story, as women’s football’s dominant nation overcame Ester’s Brazil in China.
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