Women’s World Cup: The History

The Women’s World Cup has come a long way since 1991. The first tournament wasn’t even played over a full 90 minutes! We take a look back at the six finals to date.

China ‘91
Winner: USA

The first Women’s World Cup involved twelve teams playing matches of just 80 minutes. Six match officials were female – a first for a FIFA tournament – and the USA claimed their first World Cup by beating Norway 2-1. Support during China ‘91 was huge, with average attendances nearing 20,000.

Sweden ‘95
Winner: Norway

The second tournament, which was actually known as the Women’s World Cup, saw Norway go one better. After smashing eight past Nigeria and seven past Canada in the group stage, the Norwegians went on to beat Germany 2-0 in the final. Each match at Sweden ‘95 lasted the full 90 minutes, though bizarrely included one time-out per game. England made their World Cup debut, losing 3-0 in the quarters to Germany.

USA ‘99
Winner: USA

All of the match officials were female, 123 goals were scored and 90,185 people made up the largest crowd ever for a women’s sporting event when they saw the USA take on China in the final. A tense affair at the Rose Bowl in California saw the game go to penalties. After American keeper Brianna Scurry saved Liu Ying’s stop-kick, Brandi Chastain had the chance to win the World Cup. Her successful penalty set off wild celebrations across the US and within the Rose Bowl, not least from Chastain herself.

Embed from Getty Images

USA ‘03
Winner: Germany

After thrashing Russia 7-1 in the quarter-finals, Germany faced America in the semis, in a game many regard as the best women’s football match ever. Kerstin Garefrekes put Germany ahead early on, yet little separated the two sides until second half injury time, when Germany scored two goals in quick succession to book their place in the final against Sweden. The Scandinavians took the lead, but Germany’s Maren Meinert – who had come out of retirement for the tournament – equalised after the break. The game went to extra time, and Nia Künzer’s header became the first golden goal in Women’s World Cup history.

China ‘07
Winner: Germany

Argentina were embarrassed 11-0 by reigning champions Germany in the opening game; the result remains the highest-scoring win in the Women’s World Cup finals. The tournament’s stand-out moment occurred when Brazil were 3-0 up against America during their semi-final; picking up the ball outside the penalty area, Marta controlled with her right foot, flicked the ball past a first defender with her left, melted past another and slotted into the net. In a mouth-watering final between Brazil and Germany, Birgit Prinz put the Germans ahead, and the tie seemed certain once Nadine Angerer saved a Marta penalty. Simone Laudehr’s late header saw Germany win their second consecutive World Cup without conceding a goal.

Germany ‘11
Winner: Japan

Attendances averaged 26,000 and 86 goals were scored in 32 games. There was quarter-final heartbreak for Germany too, as the hosts went down 1-0 during extra time to Japan. In the final, Alex Morgan put favourites USA ahead against Japan, before Aya Miyama sent yet another game into extra time. Abby Wambach was the only American to convert the team’s ensuing penalties, which Japan won 3-1 to become the first Asian team to win the Women’s World Cup.

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Read more from Emma Whitney here!

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