Eniola Aluko scored a memorable goal to earn England a draw against Holland in the final group match at the Cyprus Cup.
Before the tournament, the head coach had urged his charges to “win every match” but they had to settle for a point against an adventurous Dutch outfit.
England 1-1 Holland
The Cyprus Cup
GSP Stadium, Nicosia
Monday 9 March
Anna Miedema, top European goalscorer in World Cup qualifying, gave Holland the lead on 18 minutes after some nimble footwork by Danielle van de Donk.
But Aluko levelled just before the break with a tremendous solo effort.
England arrived at the GSP Stadium early and watched the last 20 minutes as Canada edged Italy 1-0 to book their place in Wednesday’s showpiece, which will be a repeat of the 2009 and 2013 finals, both of which were won by the Three Lions.
Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was handed the captain’s armband after Steph Houghton was forced to leave the squad through injury on Sunday. Houghton’s place in the heart of defence was taken by Alex Greenwood, who made her third successive start.
There was a first senior start for Amy Turner, while her Notts County club mate Jess Clarke was in line to make her 50th international appearance until she felt a twinge in her groin in the warm-up.
Liverpool captain Gemma Bonner returned from suspension following her red card against Finland and came close to breaking the deadlock early on, but she could only hit Fran Kirby’s free-kick into the side netting from a tight angle.
Holland were tidy in possession and looked to threaten down the right-hand side, where van de Donk and Vanity Lewerissa were dovetailing with menace. The latter served notice of her intentions when testing Bardsley from range. That shot was turned behind for a corner, though there was little Bardsley could do when Miedema gave Holland the lead.
Some neat play from van de Donk allowed her to get free on the right-hand side of the box and she squared for Miedema to slot home from close range.
Birmingham City midfielder Jo Potter came close to an equaliser but her controlled volley from the edge of the box was turned behind by Holland keeper Loes Geurts.
Kirby was handed a presentable chance when found by Aluko but the Reading forward shot straight into Geurts' arms from 18 yards.
Then came Aluko’s wonder goal.
The 28-year-old picked up Turner’s pass on the right and made her way across the pitch, slaloming past four Dutch defenders before finishing calmly past Geurts.
It was her 19th strike in her last 27 internationals.
Aluko came close to nudging England ahead just after the hour mark when released by Potter. The attentions of Stefanie van der Gragt were enough to put Aluko off and her shot was deflected wide.
That effort and a Demi Stokes shot aside there was a distinct lack of goalmouth action after the break. An improving England chased a winner late on but did not have to over exert themselves with a place in the final already secured.
Wednesday’s final will kick-off at 4.30pm UK time.
England (4-4-2): 1 Karen Bardsley (C; Manchester City); 15 Amy Turner (Notts County), 12 Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), 14 Alex Greenwood (Notts County), 3 Demi Stokes (Manchester City); 18 Jade Moore (Birmingham City), 17 Katie Chapman (Chelsea), 4 Jo Potter (Birmingham City), 7 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal); 10 Fran Kirby (Reading), 20 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea).
Substitutes: 6 Laura Bassett (Notts County) for Nobbs 63, 2 Alex Scott (Arsenal) for Turner 63, 9 Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns) for Kirby 69, 16 Fara Williams (Liverpool) for Moore 83
Substitutes not used: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), 21 Carly Telford (Notts County), 8 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 11 Karen Carney (Birmingham City) , 19 Jess Clarke (Notts County), 22 Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), 23 Claire Rafferty (Chelsea).
Goals: Aluko 42
Bookings: Turner 45, Chapman 60
Head coach: Mark Sampson
Holland: 1 Loes Geurts, 2 Desiree van Lunteren, 3 Stefanie van der Gragt, 4 Mandy van den Berg, 5 Siri Worm, 6 Manieke Dekker, 8 Sherida Spitse, 10 Danielle van de Donk, 11 Lieke Martens, 20 Anna Miedema, 24 Vanity Lewerissa.
Substitutes not used: 23 Angela Anna Christ, 7 Gabriella Melis, 9 Dyanne Bito, 12 Anouk Hoogendijk, 17 Tessel Middag, 19 Jill Roord, 21 Claudia van den Heiligenber.
Goals: Miedema 18
Bookings: Worm 58
Head coach: Roger Reijners