In the final analysis, England's women came up short – in Rachel Brown's case, cruelly so. The goalkeeper had overcome her lack of stature during the side's progress to the final through bravery and positioning, but in Helsinki last night she was exposed.
The Everton keeper had no chance for Germany's opening goal, but she was beaten from more than 40 yards for the second and spilled a corner for the third. Not that this was necessarily decisive for England came back each time and, though the scoreline may not reflect it, worried the defending champions for an hour with Kelly Smith leading the way. However, Germany then pulled clear to an embarrassing degree, their slick counter-attacking and sharp finishing leaving England counting the minutes before they could reach the sanctuary of the dressing room.
The final tally was the highest-scoring final in the European Championship's history, it was also the seventh German success, and their fifth in succession. By contrast this was England's first final in 25 years and merely reaching it was an achievement. The team's performance in Finland suggests it will not be another quarter-century before England again get to this stage, especially with Ian Watmore, the Football Association's chief executive, insisting yesterday that the governing body still intend to launch a professional summer league.
Faye White, England's captain, said: "The girls can hold their heads up high, but on the day they were better than us." She added: "It's the first time we have got to a final, and we're proud of that, but the Germans have a lot of experience and know how to handle an occasion like this. When they needed to dig deep they did."
Brown added:"It was basic errors [that cost us]. We let them come at us too much."
Hope Powell, the coach, made three changes from the semi-final, one unexpected. That was the inclusion of midfieder Jill Scott at the expense of previously ever-present winger Sue Smith. Eniola Aluko moved to the wing and Smith pushed forward to lead the line. Smith scored one and made one, but did not really see enough of the ball in this advanced role. As expected Karen Carney returned on the wing at the expense of young Jessica Clarke, and White, wearing a facemask to protect a fractured cheekbone, was restored in defence ahead of Lindsay Johnson.
England quickly settled into their new formation and dominated the early possession. This raised hopes among the England supporters which were brutally dispelled when Germany struck twice in two minutes midway though the half. First, Kim Kulig released Inka Grings who squared for Birgit Prinz, running off Anita Asante, to score. As England reeled Melanie Behringer, 41 yards out, drilled a shot which Brown reached, but could not keep out.
England produced the perfect response. Smith wriggled her way into the six-yard area then crossed through the legs of goalkeeper Nadine Angerer for Carney to tap in. England might have levelled before the break but Jill Scott, who headed the winner in the semi-final from a corner, was denied a repeat when Behringer cleared off the line.
Five minutes after the interval Brown failed to gather a corner and Kulig scored. England rallied again, Smith taking a clever pass from Carney, turning smartly and thrashing a shot past Angerer. Game on? Grings soon crushed such a fantasy, getting across White to loop a header over Brown.
England lost their positional discipline as they chased the game and, after Alex Scott hit her own post with a miscued clearance, Grings drove home a fifth. By now it was clear that the centre-halves had insufficient cover, a point which was rammed home when the two were carved open for Prinz to complete the drubbing with her 125th goal in 198 internationals.
The next tournament will be the 2011 World Cup, in Germany, though England must first qualify from a group in which Spain are the main threat. That, however is for the future. On the immediate horizon for many of Powell's players is the FA Premier League's weekend programme when they will be playing, if lucky, in front of hundreds rather than yesterday's 15,000-plus. For all their achievement at reaching this final it will be a reminder that the women's game in England has a long way to go.
England (4-2-3-1): Brown (Everton); A Scott (Boston Breakers), White (Arsenal), Asante (Sky Blue New Jersey), Stoney (Chelsea); J Scott (Everton), Chapman (Arsenal); Carney (Chicago Red Stars), Williams (Everton), Aluko (St Louis Athletica); K Smith (Boston Breakers). Substitutes: Sanderson (Chelsea) for Aluko, 80; Westwood (Everton) for Chapman, 85.
Germany (4-4-2): Angerer (Frankfurt); Garefrekes (Frankfurt), Krahn (Duisburg), Bartusiak (Frankfurt), Peter (Turbine Potsdam); Kulig (Hamburg), Bresonik ( Duisburg), Laudehr ( Duisburg), Behringer (Bayern Munich); Prinz (Frankfurt), Grings ( Duisburg). Substitutes: da Mbabi (Bad Neuenahr) for Behringer, 60; Bajramaj (Turbine Potsdam) for Garefrekes, 83.
Referee: D Damkova (Czech)