As the Women’s European Championships were held on the same weekend as the Women’s Football Alliance championship game, it signified a remarkable time for female football. Estadio Maracena hosted three games on the same day, culminating with the gold medal game.
In the fifth place game, Spain narrowly escaped with a victory, besting Sweden by a 14-12 tally. Germany continued to show its status as an elite football nation, prevailing convincingly over Austria by a 26-7 mark. Finland, who captured the bronze medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, continued their reign as a European powerhouse, dismantling a greatly improved Great Britain team by a 50-12 margin.
During the first quarter, Great Britain’s defense was overwhelming, only allowing Finland to score six points. Jayne Goodliffe would kick a field goal with 6:24 remaining in the first, providing Great Britain with the first lead of the game. Although the Finns would reply with a touchdown by quarterback Jenni Wahlberg, the extra point attempt was no good. Led by linebacker Phoebe Schecter, who was recognized as Great Britain’s Player of the Game in a preliminary round win against Germany, a promising first quarter provided the Brits with confidence that an upset was possible.
Making adjustments in the second quarter, Finland scored a pair of rushing touchdowns by Paula Lehtinen and Wahlberg, while Great Britain’s quarterback Joannah (Jo) Kilby managed a quarterback sneak. Facing a 20-9 deficit at halftime, Great Britain was still within reach, but the offense would have to be more efficient in the second half.
Once again, Great Britain’s defense frustrated Finland, allowing only six points. Despite Ruth Matta providing a solid running game for Great Britain, the squad had difficulty putting up points. Trying to establish momentum, the best that the Brits could muster was another field goal by Godliffe.
Such frustration would come to a boil in the fourth quarter, as fatigue and humidity took its toll. Trailing by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, Great Britain were unable to score any points. Despite their best efforts, the British defense collapsed under a strong offensive attack that resulted in Jenni Linden scoring a pair of touchdowns while Wahlberg decimated the opposing defense.
Scoring 24 unanswered points, a 26-12 lead after three quarters exploded to 50-12 upon the game’s completion. Wahlberg would score her third rushing touchdown of the game during the fourth quarter, while Tytti Kuusinen would score the game’s final touchdown with 4:13 remaining.
Despite the fourth quarter collapse, Great Britain was the feel-good story of the event. Entering the tournament ranked last, a remarkable performance which featured strong poise at the quarterback position by Kilby, swift running by Matta, and powerful effort by Schecter set the tone for a British team that is now ranked second in Europe.
Four members of the Finnish team were named Tournament All-Stars, including offensive lineman Mirva Honkonen, wide receiver Paula Lehtinen, running back Jenni Linden and quarterback Jenni Wahlberg. Great Britain’s feature running back Ruth Matta plus offensive lineman Laura Dye were the only Brits named to the All-Star team. As a side note, both running backs, Linden and Matta were recognized as the Players of the Game for their respective teams.