The England women's team must feel rather left out of it. With the excitement of Euro 96 approaching for their male counterparts, the women recorded a comfortable if rather low-key victory at Griffin Park in their own European Championship in front of just over 1,000 spectators yesterday. The victory leaves them in the play-offs for the quarter-finals.
On a cold morning - the Portuguese press were shivering and wearing gloves as they took notes - England quickly showed that they were a class above the visitors, who simply did not have the strength or quality to match them. After 10 minutes Kerry Davis, latching on to a long clearance from the goalkeeper Pauline Cope, calmly took the ball in her stride 30 yards out and struck a powerful first-time shot that dipped in over the fingertips of Portugal's Cristina Correia.
England, who are all either in full-time work or studying, continued to play well as a unit, with the captain, Gillian Coultard, taking control in the centre of midfield and spreading passes about with ease.
After one of many good build-ups, England scored their second in the 38th minute, when Davis forced the ball through to Kelly Smith, who finished with remarkable composure for a 17-year-old. Smith - along with Sian Williams, whose father Alan is the Labour MP for Swansea West - were probably the most technically skilful players on the day, both making some impressive dribbles past defenders.
The Portuguese looked down-hearted in the second half and England sealed the game in the 53rd minute when Davis cruised straight through the middle of the box, dodging some feeble tackles, and nonchalantly flipped the ball past Paula Peira, Portugal's reserve goalkeeper, who had come on after Correia suffered an injury in a collision with a photographer.
Afterwards, England expressed their satisfaction with the result, although they would have qualified for the quarter-finals even if they had lost. Their next game will be against either Spain or Romania. Davis said: "We can't complain with 3-0. It's as good as the men did on Saturday."
Goals: Davis (10) 1-0; Smith (38) 2-0; Davis (53) 3-0.
ENGLAND (3-5-2): Cope (Millwall); Williams (Arsenal), Few (Arsenal), Phillip (Millwall); Marley (Everton), Coultard (Doncaster), Burke (Liverpool), Mapes (Croydon), Harper (Liverpool); Davis (Croydon), K Smith (Wembley). Substitutes: Jarray-Silver (Wembley) for Few, 54; D Smith (Croydon) for Mapes, 74; Exley (Doncaster) for Harper, 68. Substitutes not used: Lacey (West Ham) (gk), Wheatley (Arsenal).
Portugal (3-5-2): Correia (Peira, 11); Gomes (S Silva, 59), A Silva, Conceicao; Marino (Martins, 45), Joao Xavier, Sequeira, R Silva, Couto; Freitas, A Silva. Substitutes not used: P Reis, P Santos.
Referee: B Skogvang (Norway)
Booking: England: Few.
Woman of the match: K Davis