Golden Germany crush England's hopes of European Championship glory

England's high hopes of claiming a historic first major trophy were crushed, as has so often been the case in the past, by a German team that proved far too powerful in every area of the pitch and super-efficient in front of goal.

Twice England fought back after Germany had taken the lead, but in the closing stages the strike pair of Birgit Prinz and Inka Grings both hit their second goals to make Hope Powell, the England manager, a two-times loser in European finals, having been a midfielder in the team that lost to Sweden in 1984.

The Germans had pre-planned a victory celebration and the players had "winners" T-shirts printed ahead of the final. Arrogance? Perhaps, but their record against England now stands at 17 wins and two draws in 19 meetings and they will argue that their plans were no more than a strong streak of confidence based on an extremely long period of success. Germany had not lost in European Championship action in 13 years, an incredible run of 45 unbeaten matches with the last 34 ending in victories. But England went into the match buoyed by the memory of a fine performance in the goalless draw between the two nations at the 2007 World Cup. That was the only occasion in the last 10 years that any team has prevented Germany from winning during a finals tournament.

Powell, just as she had in the semi-final victory over Holland, made an unexpected change to her starting line-up and it almost paid early dividends. The striker Eni Aluko, deployed on the left wing with Sue Smith making way for Jill Scott following the midfielder's extra-time winner against the Dutch, broke clear in the second minute but ran the ball over the touchline as three colleagues lined up in the penalty area.

The midfielder Fara Williams then went close with a ninth-minute, 25-yard free-kick which curled just wide of the target. Eleven minutes later Germany, having made a slow start, took the lead when Prinz raced on to a pass from Grings to send a low 12-yard shot into the net with the central defenders Faye White and Anita Aasante trailing in her wake..

The second goal arrived within three minutes, the midfielder Melanie Behringer arrowing a 40-yard shot beyond the reach of the flailing goalkeeper Rachel Brown and into the top corner of the net.

It looked bleak for England, but they had been two goals behind to Russia in their second group game of the tournament and came back to win 3-2 following a Karen Carney goal. And Carney it was again who quickly halved the deficit, the winger turning the ball in from eight yards after a fine run and pass by Kelly Smith just 60 seconds after Germany's second goal.

Powell's team then almost levelled the scores nine minutes before half-time. Carney floated the ball in from the left and Scott heading goalwards only to see her effort cleared off the line by Behringer.

But six minutes after the interval the Germans restored their two-goal advantage. Brown, who had been a little slow to react to Behringer's shot for the second goal, was at fault again as she failed to get a good clearing punch on Grings' cross and when Simone Laudehr's 15-yard volley rebounded from the post, the midfielder Kim Kulig was the quickest to react and stabbed the ball into the roof of the net.

England again produced a rapid response, pulling a 55th minute goal back through Smith who, after receiving a neat through-ball from Carney, turned the central defender Annike Krahn to drive a cross-shot inside the far post.

Williams was just wide with a long-range effort as England looked for an equaliser before Germany eventually went two goals clear again. Kerstin Garefrekes swept past the left-back Casey Stoney to cross for Grings to loop a 63rd minute header over Brown for her fifth goal of the tournament. Alex Scott then almost presented the Germans with a 67th minute killer goal, slicing an attempted clearance past Brown and against the far post.

The goal that finally did kill all come-back hopes arrived six minutes later. The relentless Prinz ran at the England defence before passing to Grings who struck the shot that earned her the championship's Golden Boot award.

And when Prinz, in the 76th minute, broke into the penalty area to score her second goal from 15 yards, Germany's pre-arranged party was able to have an early start.

Prinz has now scored 124 times in 198 internationals and is quite rightly regarded as the world's top female striker. She has also again proved to be a tormentor of England, having passed her century of goals in a 5-1 friendly victory over Powell's team three years ago.