FIFA Women's World Cup
The FIFA Women's World Cup is the most prestigious women's international competition in soccer, a FIFA-sanctioned event that occurs every four years. The first competition took place in 1991 (61 years after the first men's World Cup) and was won by the United States. The U.S. and Germany have each claimed the title two times, while Japan became the tournament's first Asian champion by winning the 2011 World Cup, after besting the U.S. in a penalty shootout in the final.
The idea for the Women's World Cup began in 1989 by then-FIFA president Joao Havelange, who also created the junior and indoor World Cup competitions during his six terms in office. Though at that time it was thought an extremely far-fetched idea, the World Cup hosted its first tournament in China two years later. In that first tournament -- then called the Women's World Championship -- 12 squads from six continents competed, and the United States won handily, finishing the event unbeaten and with a goal-differential of plus-20.
At that 1991 World Cup, FIFA marked another first by using six female referees or assistant referees. When Brazilian Claudia de Vasconcelos refereed the third-place match, she became the first woman to officiate for FIFA at that level.
Four years later, the second event again brought 12 squads to the championship and added the prize of qualification for the next year's women's Olympic Football Tournament, the first of its kind. The final that year -- in women's football-friendly Sweden -- brought in more than 112,000 attendants. In that game, Sweden's Ingrid Jonsson became the first woman to referee a FIFA final.
The 1999 tournament in the United States brought the Women's World Cup to a completely new level. Not only did the event expand from 12 teams to 16 in the finals, but the tournament brought in new records in media coverage, viewership and worldwide exposure. For the first time, all 32 games were broadcast live, and an estimated 40 million U.S. viewers watched the Cup, adding to more than 660,000 spectators who attended live. The final, which saw the U.S. beat China in penalty kicks, brought 90,185 fans to Los Angeles' Rose Bowl, still the world women's sporting attendance record.
The 2003 event was supposed to have been held in China, but was moved to the United States due to the SARS epidemic in China. The move was announced only five months before the tournament's October start, and FIFA believed that the U.S., having hosted the previous tournament, would have the least trouble preparing in such a short time. Germany won that tournament in the U.S., as well as the 2007 edition, which was finally held in China. In doing so, Germany became the first squad to win back-to-back women's Cup titles.
FIFA had previously spoken of expanding the field from 16 teams to 24 for the 2011 tournament, but -- partly on the back of an embarrassing 11-0 rout in the first round of the 2007 competition -- Sepp Blatter and his crew eventually decided not to change the field. In December 2009, however, it was announced that 24 teams would participate in the competition starting in 2015.
The final 16 teams in the tournament are determined by qualifying tournaments among confederations, usually held the year before the tournament. In 2011, the 16 teams are divided among FIFA's six confederations as such:
The third-placed team in CONCACAF and the fifth-placed team in UEFA compete in a playoff to determine the final squad. The host (in 2011, Germany) also receives an automatic spot. The confederations determine which teams go through using their regional tournaments, sending the top finishers in those cups on to the world tournament.
By the World Cup finals, the games largely are played by FIFA's normal rules, and most of the regulations are similar or identical to those of the men's World Cup. The final competition is played in a round-robin group stage, followed by three knockout stages -- a quarterfinal, semifinal and final (and a third-place game). Draws are decided by two periods of extra time and then a penalty kick shootout if necessary. Like in the men's World Cup, the final group matches are played simultaneously to ensure fair play.
At the end of the tournament, several special awards are presented to teams or individuals (again, identical to the format of the men's tournament). The Golden Shoe is awarded to the player with the most goals, the Golden Glove is awarded to the best goalkeeper, and the Golden Ball is awarded to the best overall player. The Fair Play Trophy is given to the team finishing first in the fair play contest, which is based off points rewarded or deducted by behavior on and off the pitch.
1991 Women's World Championship
Two years after the idea was first presented by FIFA, the initial Women's World Cup was held in the People's Republic of China in November 1991. Originally termed the Women's World Championship, the event featured 12 teams from six continents that were placed into three groups of four for the opening stage.
China opened the tournament with an impressive 4-0 victory in Group A over Norway, which rebounded with wins over New Zealand and Denmark to join the host nation in advancing to the knockout rounds.
The United States began play with a 3-2 victory over Sweden in Group B, before scoring eight goals in two successive shutout wins to finish its pool play undefeated. The Swedes' 2-0 defeat of Brazil on the group's final match day secured passage to the second round.
Group C featured two other European sides -- Germany and Italy -- that also advanced, with the Germans producing a perfect group record without giving up a goal. The top two third-place teams among the three groups, Denmark and Chinese Taipei, rounded out the teams qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Anson Dorrance's U.S. team picked up its goalscoring pace in the quarterfinals, with Michelle Akers netting five of the team's goals in a 7-0 rout over Chinese Taipei. Carin Jennings then notched a hat trick in the Americans' 5-2 win over Germany in the semifinals.
The other side of the knockout brackets saw Sweden upset the hosts in the quarterfinals -- with Pia Sundhage scoring the game's only goal -- while Norway needed extra time to defeat Italy, 3-2. Tina Svensson struck the late winner in that game, and then scored one of Norway's four goals in the semifinal win over Sweden.
The final of the 1991 tournament between the U.S. and Norway -- played in front of 65,000 spectators at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou -- was a tight affair that featured a goal for each side before halftime. With the game still tied late, Akers scored her 10th goal of the tournament to give the U.S. the title in the inaugural tournament.
Akers' goal tally earned her the Golden Shoe award as top scorer for the 1991 World Cup, and she finished second to teammate Jennings in FIFA's voting for the Golden Ball, awarded to the tournament's top player. The two combined with April Heinrichs to score 20 of the Americans' 25 goals in China, a team total that has yet to be surpassed in succeeding World Cups.
1995 Women's World Cup
The Women's World Cup moved from Asia to Europe in 1995, with 1991 semifinalists Sweden serving as hosts. Twelve teams gathered for the second edition, to not only play for the World Cup trophy but also for qualification to the first women's Olympic Football Tournament the following year in Atlanta. FIFA also used the 1995 tournament as an opportunity to experiment with the time-out concept -- a rule that enabled each team to call one two-minute break per half -- but few teams took the opportunity to call for breaks.
Sweden was upset by Brazil in the tournament opener, but recovered with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Germany to please the home fans. A win over Japan qualified the Swedes for the next round, along with the Germans out of Group A.
1991 finalist Norway cruised through its Group B matches -- winning by scores of 8-0, 2-0 and 7-0 -- with Ann Kristin Aarones netting five goals in pool play. England, which was making its debut appearance in the Women's World Cup, topped Nigeria 3-2 in its final group match to reach the knockout rounds.
The defending champion United States entered the tournament as a favorite but lost 1991 star Michelle Akers to injury during the team's first game, a 3-3 draw with China. The Americans regrouped with wins over Australia and Denmark on goals from six different players to advance out of Group C along with China and its stars Sun Wen and Liu Ailing.
In the quarterfinals, China advanced past hosts Sweden after the first-ever penalty shootout in Women's World Cup history. The U.S. and Germany each posted comfortable shutout wins, while Norway defeated neighbors Denmark to reach the semifinals.
Four years after meeting in the first-ever World Cup final, the U.S. and Norway squared off in the 1995 semifinals, with Ann Krstin Aarones' early strike enough for her country to exact some revenge on the Americans. The other semi finished with the same 1-0 scoreline, as Bettina Wiegmann's late goal lifted Germany past China.
Rising stars Mia Hamm and Tisha Venturini scored in the U.S. side's 2-0 win over China in the third-place match, one day before the final that featured two European teams meeting on European soil at the Rasunda national stadium. The final match was officiated by Sweden's Ingrid Jonsson, who became the first woman to referee the final of a FIFA tournament.
Hege Riise and Marianne Pettersen struck for first-half goals in the title game, and Norway held on for a 2-0 victory to claim the World Cup trophy. The Scandinavian side featured the tournament's top three scorers, with Aarones' six goals claiming Golden Shoe honors. Riise added five goals and was awarded by FIFA with the Golden Ball as top performer at the 1995 Women's World Cup.
1999 Women's World Cup
The 1999 Women's World Cup marked the final major FIFA tournament of the century, but the event also proved to be the beginning of a new era for women's soccer and served as a milestone in the history of women's sport -- particularly for the host nation, the United States.
The tournament set new records for attendance, media coverage and television audiences, as all 32 games were broadcast live on national television and played in large stadiums. For the 1999 event, the number of teams competing for the World Cup title grew to 16, with the sides divided into four groups of four teams for the opening stage.
The U.S. team stormed through its three Group A matches, topping its pool with nine points. The hosts scored 13 goals (from eight different players) in three victories that included a 7-1 win over Nigeria, which finished second in the group to advance to the quarterfinals along with the Americans.
Group B, featuring Germany, Brazil, Italy and Mexico, was considered the toughest among the foursomes. The Brazilians began in impressive fashion by defeating Mexico and Italy, with Sissi netting five goals in the two wins. She scored another in a 3-3 draw with Germany as the South American side topped the pool, leaving the Germans with the tougher quarterfinal opponent draw.
Defending World Cup champion Norway was the class of Group C, with the influential Hege Riise and her teammates taking all three matches by a combined score of 13-2. Fellow European side Russia joined Norway in advancing, thanks to a 4-1 win over Canada on the group's final matchday.
Like Norway and the U.S., China made it through group play with a perfect record. After coming from behind to defeat Sweden in the Group D opener, the Chinese overpowered Ghana and Australia with star performer Sun Wen scoring four goals in pool play. Sweden rebounded to also reach the quarterfinals, but lost Hanna Ljungberg to an injury in its third match.
Without Ljungberg, the Swedes fell to Norway, 3-1, at the first knockout stage. China scored a goal in each half to eliminate Russia and set up a semifinal match with Norway. The other quarterfinals proved more dramatic, as the U.S. came from a goal behind at halftime to top Germany, 3-2, and Brazil needed extra time to defeat Nigeria, 4-3. The Nigerians had scored three late goals in regulation after being down 3-0, but a 104th-minute strike from Sissi moved Brazil forward.
The two semifinals were less eventful, with China and the U.S. recording shutout victories to reach the championship game, which was played in front of over 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. And after 120 minutes of scoreless action, the final went to penalty kicks, with the U.S. team prevailing 5-4 in the shootout to capture its second Women's World Cup title.
The exciting victory made household names out of a number of U.S. players, including Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. And the success of the team and the tournament led to the development of a women's professional soccer league in the host country, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). That league would included a number of foreign players that included both Sissi of Brazil and China's Sun Wen, who shared the Golden Shoe award at the 1999 World Cup after each had scored seven goals during the tournament.
2003 Women's World Cup
China won the right to host the 2003 Women's World Cup, but by April of that year, it became clear that China's SARS outbreak was significant enough to have to move the tournament to the United States only four months before the first game. A few scheduling kinks had to be worked out after the late move, but overall the tournament went off without any problems.
The United States squad adapted well to its new role as host, going undefeated through the group stages and winning all three matches. Germany, too, provided an early threat by winning all three matches with a goal differential of plus-11. They were joined out of their groups by Sweden and Canada, respectively.
Brazil and China PR struggled more in their groups, but both did enough to emerge the victors, winning two and drawing one of their matches. Norway and Russia also made it out of Groups B and D, finishing just one point behind their group winners.
After the group stages, it looked as though the U.S. and Germany could reach the finals on cruise control, and they easily won their quarterfinal matchups against Norway and Russia. But the two teams that joined them in the semis were surprising. The two teams who finished second behind them -- Sweden and Canada -- both upset their quarterfinal opponents, Brazil and China PR. That left the U.S. and Germany to face each other in the semis.
The German squad dispatched the holders easily, maintaining a 1-0 lead after scoring in the 15th minute then adding two more in injury time. They would face an upstart Swedish squad in the finals, who had beaten Canada with a 2-1 winner in the 86th minute.
The Swedes struck first in the final that year, scoring in the 41st minute. But Germany responded just one minute after the halftime break, tying the score at one-all. It took extra time and a golden goal to decide, but the talented German squad won the title after Nia Kunzer scored her first goal of the tournament in the 96th minute. The U.S., meanwhile, defeated Canada easily to claim third place, winning 3-1 in the consolation match.
The Germans had proven their worth throughout the tournament, but their domination against the group sides and especially against the previously-all-conquering U.S. squad had taken many by surprise. In many ways, Golden Shoe and Golden Ball winner Birgit Prinz made the difference, scoring seven goals throughout the tournament and leading the Germans to their first world title. She was named captain at the end of the tournament.
2007 Women's World Cup
After giving up the hosting duties in 2003, China was awarded the 2007 Women's World Cup automatically, and the country prepared to host its second tournament four years later than expected.
Once again, Germany and the United States got off to hot starts, both finishing top of their groups. Germany had set the tone for a successful campaign early, beating Argentina 11-0 in the most lopsided World Cup match in history. Those teams were joined as group winners by Norway and Brazil, which finished undefeated and with an extremely positive goal differential. England, in only its second World Cup, joined those squads in the quarterfinal, as well as Korea DPR, Australia and hosts China PR.
The quarterfinals brought few surprises, as the traditional powerhouses moved on easily past their less sure opponents. Germany and the United States each won by 3-0, the Germans beating North Korea and the Americans topping England. A Marta-led Brazil edged Australia in a 3-2 battle, and Norway beat hosts China, 1-0. The semifinals, too, provided nothing but routs -- Germany trounced Norway 3-0, and a talented Brazilian squad easily dispatched the United States 4-0.
Germany had reached the finals without giving up a goal in that World Cup, but facing the high-scoring Brazilians and the pure class of Marta, that record seemed in jeopardy. But it was against Birgit Prinz who came to her squad's rescue, scoring Germany's first goal in the second half before Simone Laudehr made it 2-0 in the 86th minute, sealing the squad's second straight World Cup title. Once again, the United States finished third, beating Norway 4-1 in the consolation.
Despite the Germans' win -- becoming the first team to win two in a row as well as the first to win without conceding a goal -- it was Brazil's striker Marta (already the holder of two World Player of the Year awards) who swept the individual awards, winning the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe with seven goals.between September and November 2010.
2011 Women's World Cup
Germany was awarded hosting duties forthe 2011 tournament, and the two-time defending champions were favorites to win a third Cup on home soil. And although the hosts got off to a slow start and saw veteran star Birgit Prinz benched in favor of younger stars, Germany rebounded to top France and finish atop Group A.
England also began the tournament slowly, drawing with Mexico, but defeated a strong Japan side in the final group game to claim top spot in Group B. Another European team, Swede, won Group C by handing the United States its first-ever loss in World Cup group play.
The U.S. still advanced to the knockout stages, but had to face Brazil -- which finished first in Group D without conceding a goal -- in the quarterfinals. The game turned into an extra-time classic, with Marta scoring a brilliant goal in the initial extra period to put Brazil up 2-1. But Abby Wambach's dramatic header in the 122th minute sent the game to penalties, where the Americans prevailed.
Three of the quarterfinals in the 2011 Women's World Cup required extra time before being decided. France struck late in regulation against England and then advanced on penalty kicks, while host Germany was upset by Japan when Karina Mayurama scored in the extra period.
Sweden eased past Australia (3-1) in the final quarterfinal, but was then outclassed by Japan in the semifinals by the same scoreline. The U.S. conceded much of the possession and chances to France in the other semi, but scored two late goals to win 3-1 to reach the final and earn the chance to become the first three-time winner of the Cup.
The thrilling final capped the most wide-open edition of the Women's World Cup to date. After a scoreless first half, substitute Alex Morgan scored on the counter attack to put the Americans up, but Aya Miyama equalized in the 80th minute to send the game to extra time. Abby Wambach headed home to give the U.S. another lead before Homare Sawa responded with a goal off of a corner kick in the 117th minute. The goal -- the fifth of the tournament for Sawa, who ended as the tournament's top scorer -- resulted in another penalty shootout, where Japan outscored the U.S. 3-1 on PKs to win the country's first World Cup title.
The 2011 edition of the Women's World Cup will be hosted by Germany and will take place from June 26 to July 17, 2011. Qualifications for the 16 teams who will participate began in July 2009 and finished in November 2010. Germany qualified automatically as the host.
The draw for the 2011 Women's World Cup took place in November in Germany. The four seeded teams were hosts (and two-time defending champions) Germany, the United States, Japan and Brazil.
2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Schedule
|Group A||Group B|
|Sunday, June 26
Germany 2, Canada 1
France 1, Nigeria 0
Thursday, June 30
Germany 1, Nigeria 0
France 4, Canada 0
Tuesday, July 5
Germany 4, France 2
Nigeria 1, Canada 0
|Monday, June 27
Japan 2, New Zealand 1
Mexico 1, England 1
Friday, July 1
Japan 4, Mexico 0
England 2, New Zealand 1
Tuesday, July 5
England 2, Japan 0
New Zealand 2, Mexico 2
|Group C||Group D|
|Tuesday, June 28
United States 2, North Korea 0
Sweden 1, Colombia 0
Saturday, July 2
United States 3, Colombia 0
Sweden 1, North Korea 0
Wednesday, July 6
Sweden 2, United States 1
North Korea 0, Colombia 0
|Wednesday, June 29
Brazil 1, Australia 0
Norway 1, Equatorial Guinea 0
Sunday, July 3
Brazil vs. Norway (at Wolfsburg)
Australia 3, Equatorial Guinea 2
Wednesday, July 6
Brazil 3, Equatorial Guinea 0
Australia 2, Norway 1
|Saturday, July 9||Sunday, July 10|
|Japan 1, Germany 0
France 1, England 1 (France 4-3 in PK)
|Sweden 3, Australia 1
United States 2, Brazil 2 (US 5-3 in PK)
|Wednesday, July 13|
|Japan 3, Sweden 1(At Frankfurt)
United States 3, France 1 (At Moenchengladbach)
|Saturday, July 16|
|Sweden 2, France 1 (at Sinsheim)|
|Sunday, July 17|
|Japan 2, United States 2 (Japan 3-1 in PK)
2011 FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP
Host Nation: Germany
• Group A: Germany, Canada, Nigeria, France
• Group B: Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, England
• Group C: United States, North Korea, Colombia, Sweden
• Group D: Brazil, Australia, Equatorial Guinea, Norway
ALL-TIME FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP RESULTS
GERMANY 2011 VENUES