Six countries took part in the tournament, half of which came from the United Kingdom. England started out as favourites for both the Men's and the Women's competitions, and looked to be fielding strong teams. Scotland and Wales enjoyed strong vocal support throughout, but had the distinct disadvantage when it came to the numbers of Men's clubs regularly playing in these areas.
Making longer trips to the tournament were Germany, whose Men's team impressed many last year in their enthusiastic World Cup endeavours, and the Czech Republic who also had players capable of surprises. And finally came Sweden, who most held to be an unknown quantity.
Over a gloriously Sunny week in Manchester (yes, they do happen occasionally!) every nation in the Men's competition played each of the others once. After all fifteen games, the results were as follows:
|England||England 21-2||England 17-5||England 15-4||England 23-2||England 20-1|
|Germany||Germany 6-5||Germany 9-7||Germany 8-6||Germany 8-4|
|Scotland||Scotland 13-6||Scotland 8-6||Scotland 11-8|
|Czech||Czech 8-7 (OT)||Czech 9-4|
This made the final standings like this:
So England finished the first round of the competition unbeaten, with a very impressive record. An average goal difference of +16 per game, with an average of under 3 goals conceded! With Germany bringing up second place, defeating every team except England, the two teams would fight for the Championship on the Saturday afternoon.
Scotland, by virtue of their 3-2 record, progressed to the 3rd/4th place playoff against the Czech Republic, which left Wales and Sweden to battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
When it finally came to Saturday, a large crowd gathered at the Firs to view the finale of the Championships. The pitches and the bar were both put under great strain by the unexpectedly good weather, but fortunately both appeared to cope fairly well!
First of all, Wales forced Sweden down into last place in an early-morning 6-5 decider. This gave the Welsh side 5th place, which was perhaps less than they had hoped for, but their women's team was busy salvaging pride in their competition (more of which later).
Next up was the 3rd/4th playoff between Scotland and the Czech Republic. This proved to be an exciting and evenly-balanced game, with plenty of encouragement from the British supporters. Unfortunately for the Czech team, they had rather a lot of trouble with the offside rule, and squandered possession and penalties as a result. Completely unnecessary, and surely a spirit-breaker when the game is tight. Scotland gradually edged away in the second half, and despite a few nervous moments in the final few minutes, held a slender lead. The Scottish keeper made several vital saves in the final quarter, which frustrated the Czech fightback and took away their momentum, helping towards a final score of 8-6 to the Scots.
Finally it came to the Men's Championship Final, but since England had trounced Germany 21-2 in the first round, many expected the final to be a walkover. A mixture of English arrogance and overconfidence prevented this, although for large portions of the match, the England team were dominant. From the first whistle, the goals started flowing, but England seemed somewhat patchy. Few would have predicted a half-time score of 6-2. When the England team were firing on all cylinders, the attack seemed unstoppable, and their defence seemed impenetrable. In particular, the German team had little answer to the rather more physical style of the English play, especially in midfield. However, this dominance certainly wasn't in evidence throughout the match, and on more than one occasion England were caught off guard.
In the second half, England started giving away sloppy, unnecessary penalties, and the Germans capitalised to bring the scores back closer. The German side did have some useful players, but they did not seem to have the same depth of attacking ideas, nor robustness in defence. When they weren't being overconfident and careless, England were highly impressive, their fast break was simply awesome, and the settled attack varied. On the other hand, Germany too often had to rely on their isolation plays, with variable success. Although the final outcome may not have been under real threat, I'm sure there were a few warning bells going off in the England camp as the gap narrowed. In the final 10 minutes England started taking notice again and took control, eventually securing the victory 12-9. It made England European Champions, but their display was certainly a lot less convincing than in the first round.
The final rankings for the 1999 European Championship look like this:
As in the Men's competition, the women's teams played each other once, to determine which teams would go through to the final, the 3rd/4th place playoff, and the 5th/6th place decider. After fifteen games, the results were as follows:
|England||England 9-8||10-10||England 20-12||England 20-1||England 23-9|
|Wales||Wales 8-6||Wales 16-3||Wales 15-0||Wales 20-0|
|Czech||Czech 20-3||Czech 16-3||Czech 17-2|
|Germany||Germany 8-3||Germany 15-2|
This made the final standings for the women's competition like this:
In the 5th/6th place decider, Scotland faced Sweden, and miraculously pulled their first win out of the bag 11-8. So despite running up an extraordinary goal deficit throughout the first round, the Scots ended up 5th and gave Sweden the dubious honour of finishing 6th in both Men's and Women's competitions.
Next was the 3rd/4th place playoff between the Czech Republic and Germany. Here, the Czechs repeated their first round victory, this time 12-7, confirming their third place in the championships and leaving Germany to settle for 4th place.
England then entered the women's final as favourites, being unbeaten so far, although the first round victory against the Welsh was by the narrowest of margins. England started well, and pulled ahead by a few goals, but the Welsh were dogged and kept finding ways through the English defence to keep the margin tight. With a generally larger physical presence, Wales forced their way ahead, but all the way the teams were very closely matched. At the end, the Welsh had just enough to keep the English at bay, and deserved their 9-7 victory and the European Championship.
The following were taken from the ELA site, on which you used to be able to find team listings and all the results (until they were removed).