FIFA Women

FIFA Women’s World Cup

World Cups are a celebration, and act as a simple reminder that in sports there is no true failure. While the central focus is on the titles, on the winning and on the success, World Cups make even a loss feel like a win with the size and depth of their spectacle. The music, parties and culture of the FIFA World Cups means that no one truly feels like a loser at the end of the day.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup has, in a very pure sense, fought for this celebration. The early iterations of international competitions – not at that time classified as World Cups – were not organised by FIFA. Women’s football was forged and scrapped for its own space when many countries outlawed it. When that fight ended up in the FIFA Congress, the global football governing body had to take note. 

Each team – be it club or international – is a culmination of its past. It is where it is because of yesterday. Women’s football knows their fight too well not to savour World Cups and categorise teams as losers. 

FIFA Women’s World Cup: 101

  • Since the first officially recognised FIFA Women’s World Cup was hosted in 1991, there has been a World Cup every four years. This Olympiad cycle follows – you guessed it – the Olympics and men’s football, in addition to other sports. However, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the FIFA Men’s World Cup, and the Olympics never take place in the same year.
  • The six continental football governing bodies – CAF, AFC, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC, and UEFA – organise qualifying tournaments to determine which member countries will head to the World Cup finals.
  • Thirty-two countries participate in the group stage of the World Cup. They are drawn into eight groups of four. Group winners and runners-up progress to the single-elimination knockout stage – which consists of the round-of-16, quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the final.
  • Due to varying levels of participation and investment, the hosts have largely been concentrated in countries where women’s football has already had notable success. There has been far more rotation between continents in the men’s game, and it’s likely that the women’s game will follow suit. For instance, Australia and New Zealand will host the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – their first and the first OFC-hosted iteration. 

The History of the FIFA Women’s World Cup

Like much of women’s football’s early history, tournaments and clubs – at a time when men’s football had become a truly global phenomenon – were raised in spite of existing infrastructure and difficulties. Before FIFA recognised the women’s game as something it couldn’t ignore as it was fundamentally a very sellable product – The Federation of Independent European Female Football organised a World Cup. (FIEFF were privately funded by owners of the Italian women’s football teams.) Taking place in Italy across cities north and south, the 1970 World Cup is the starting point of Women’s World Cups. Only seven teams participated. The line-up changed as late as May – with the tournament set to play in early July. Czechoslovakia were due to be involved but had visa issues, so they had to drop out. West Germany ended up playing two quarterfinals – their original draw vs England and a second in which Czechoslovakia were supposed to play in. Mexico were the only non-European team to participate. They would finish third, beating England 3-2 in the Third-Place tie. Denmark would be crowned the inaugural champions, defeating hosts Italy 2-0.

The second FIEFF-organised World Cup kicked off thirteen months later in Mexico. Six teams participated in the single-round-robin group stage, which led directly into a semi-final. Denmark were again champions. They had to beat the tournament hosts to lift this World Cup too, with a 3-0 victory over Mexico – a Susanne Augustesen hat-trick wowing the 110,000 people in the Azteca Stadium. Yes, 110,000.

No World Cup – or World Cup equivalent – was organised throughout the rest of the 1970s. Continental international tournaments were held in Asia and Europe, but no global tournaments. In the 1980s, the Mundialito was held four times, all taking place in the North of Italy. This was an invitational tournament, with the likes of Italy, England, West Germany, Japan, and the USA (who made their debut in 1985) – in addition to others – being involved. Italy won two titles (1984 and 1986), and England won two titles (1985 and 1988). 

Through the lifespan of the Mundialito (1984-1988), though, women’s football was beginning to change. Ellen Wille was pivotal to that. In 1986, she spoke in front of the FIFA Congress, demanding women’s football be recognised, organised, and funded fairly – given the treatment it deserved. Members – unsurprisingly, predominantly men – agreed. This, in turn, led to a trial, invitational tournament in 1988 hosted by China. All six continental bodies were represented, with twelve teams participating. The single-round-robin group stage had three groups of four teams, with the top two teams and two best-placed third finishers progressing to the quarter-finals. As with the FEIFF World Cups at the beginning of the 1970s, tournament hosts made deep runs in the competition. China finished fourth, losing on penalties to Brazil. Norway beat Sweden 1-0 in the final to win the trial World Cup. Overall, the competition was a roaring success. Tens of thousands of fans attended games.

And so began the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In 1991, China hosted the very first FIFA Women’s World Cup. Each continental governing body organised a qualification process to determine which team would go to China to compete. Twelve teams qualified – exactly the same as the trial invitational in 1988 (though different teams). Nigeria, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the USA participated. The inaugural World Cup champions were the USA, led by Michelle Akers’ 10 goals, including a brace in the final against Norway, which 63,000 witnessed. 

While equipment issues and length-of-play discussions did surround the tournaments – some teams struggled to access equipment to train with, and the games were 80 minutes long, but many thought 90 would be fine – attendances were strong, and there was hope that the novelty of women’s football would turn in a sustainable audience. 

The 1995 World Cup in Sweden followed the same structure as the 1991 iteration. (Sweden, incidentally, were the first nation to host both a men’s and women’s World Cup.) The hosts struggled in this tournament, losing 4-3 on penalties to China in the quarterfinals. Nordic neighbours Norway – a constant threat on the international stage – beat Germany 2-0 in the final to clinch their first World Cup. 

1999 saw the USA host. Having hosted the men’s World Cup in 1994 – a tournament which helped cement ‘soccer’ as a compelling sport for Americans new to the sport and its spectacle – the USA were ready for the women’s World Cup. The Rose Bowl, which had hosted the men’s final, would do the same for the women’s. It was a tournament that can, in every sense, be described as bigger than what had come before it. Firstly, sixteen teams participated. Secondly, average attendances for each match were much higher than in the 1995 edition (37,319), and also the total attendance was higher (1,194,000). Thirdly, revenue was up, $4M profit was made. 

The record-setting tournament culminated in a variety of ways. Sissi and Sun Wen were vying for the Golden Boot with seven goals each. Nigeria made it to the quarterfinals for the first time. China’s wonderous run to the final included a 5-0 drubbing of defending champions Norway. The impressive Chinese side faced the USA at the Rose Bowl, witnessed by a record-breaking 90,185 people. The match went to penalties. The defining moment became a defining image: defender Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty and celebrated by taking off her top and swinging it above her head before falling to her knees, screaming.

China were set to be the first nation to host two women’s World Cups. However, the SARS outbreak in 2003 forced FIFA to give USA hosting rights, making them back-to-back hosts. China, instead, hosted the 2007 iteration.

The USA couldn’t replicate the heights of 1999. They fell short in the semi-final, losing 3-0 to the German side that would go on to lift the title in a 2-1 victory over Sweden after Nia Künzer scored a golden goal in the 98th minute. This was their first World Cup title.

When 2007 came around, and China were fulfilling their hosting duties, Germany were very ready to defend their World Cup title. While 2007 was also the year the legendary Marta made her World Cup debut for Brazil, rolling around the pitch wearing the number 10, scoring seven goals and being named the tournament’s Best Player, Germany became the first nation to retain a women’s World Cup title.

2011 saw the back-to-back Champions host. After breezing through the group stage, Germany fell late to a Maruyama goal for Japan in the quarterfinals. That was the first of a difficult stretch of knockout games for the Japanese. Next up was Sweden, which Japan won 3-1. A Kawasumi brace with a Sawa goal took them to the final. Their fairy tale‘s final act saw them face the USA in Frankfurt in front of 48,817 people. They did not cower. A 2-2 draw took them to penalties. The USA missed their opening three spot-kicks, which enabled Japan to take an early 2-0 lead before Wambach scored for the USA, and Kumagai sealed victory – 3-1 on pens. Japan claimed their first title, completing a huge upset – becoming the first Asian country in men’s and women’s sport to win a World Cup final.

The 2015 World Cup in Canada saw a repeat of that 2011 final: the USA vs Japan. It was a tournament of twenty-four teams – the first expansion since 1999. Hawk-Eye technology was implemented in the tournament too, and it was the first tournament to be played on artificial turf. The USA overcome Colombia, China, and Germany in the knockout phase to face Japan in the final, while the Japanese beat the Netherlands, Australia, and England. The final was won comfortably by the USA as they raced to a 4-0 lead inside 16 minutes.

Which brings us too…

A Recap: FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019

The 2019 World Cup took place in France across nine cities. Twenty-four teams, again, qualified for the finals. This was the last tournament to have twenty-four teams, with the next, in Australia and New Zealand, having thirty-two. Following the introduction of Hawk-Eye at the 2015 tournament, VAR was used at this one. 

With no upsets in the Group Stage, the Round of 16 had a few intriguing match-ups, namely Spain vs. the USA. The USA overcome that first test with a 2-1 victory. Hosts France needed extra-time to beat Brazil. While Sweden narrowly beat Canada 1-0. Back-to-back-finalists Japan lost to the Netherlands – a growing threat on the European and International stage. 

For the quarterfinals, France were drew against the one team they’d have rather faced in the final: the USA. After two Megan Rapinoe goals – one in each half – Wendy Renard’s 81st-minute goal was too little too late, meaning France were dumped out in the quarterfinals. Elsewhere, England drubbed Norway 3-0, which included another Ellen White goal. Vivianne Miedema continued to stake her claim as the most exciting striker in women’s football with one of two goals in the Netherlands’ victory over Italy. To round out this phase of the tournament, Sweden, thanks to Emma Blackstenius, beat Germany 2-1. 

This gave us two tasty semi-finals: England vs. the USA and the Netherlands vs. Sweden. A sixth Ellen White goal of the tournament was only enough to bring England to 1-1 with the USA before Alex Morgan pushed the USA ahead soon after, leading the USA to the final. They would meet the Netherlands there after their nervy 1-0 win against Sweden.

The final was wrapped up in 10 mins. A Rapinoe penalty in the 61st minute put the USA ahead, while Rose Lavelle’s 69th minute goal sealed the game. It was a game of champions, with the USA having been victorious in the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship and the Netherlands being Euro 2017 champions. But the USA lifted their second consecutive title and fourth overall.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

A new edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup has been held during the summer of 2023, with the oceanic countries of Australia and New Zealand as it’s venues. There have been 32 teams from all over the world that have participated in this tournament, showcasing the huge pool of female football talent.

The initial group stage ended without any major surprises, with most of the top teams qualifying and moving on to the knockout rounds. The most significant absences from the round of 16 being Brazil, Italy and Argentina, whose male team just won the men’s world cup last year

The biggest surprise was when the United States team, who were one of the favorites to win the tournament, were eliminated by the Swedish Team in the round of 16. The US has won the title in the previous competition in 2019, however were eliminated on penalties rather early on in the competition this time around. The Swedish team then went on to beat Japan before being knocked out by Spain, who had previously beaten Switzerland with an impressive score of 5-1 and the Netherlands.

On the other side of the knockout table the home Aussie team managed to defeat Denmark and then France in a very tense round of penalties, before coming face to face with the English team who were also favorites of the competition. England had made their way past Nigeria and Columbia before beating the Australians on their home turf by scoring 3 goals to 1 and moving on to the finals to play Spain.

The moment for the grand final finally came on Sunday 20th August, which was played in Sydney, Australia. Spain and England faced each other in a very intense and well played match, with the odds being practically even for both teams.  In the 29th minute, Spain’s winger Olga Carmona scored a goal, and the score would remain that way all the way through the rest of the game and the Spanish were proclaimed world champions. The first women’s World Cup for Spain, and the finishing touch for a World Cup that has raised women’s football to a new level of popularity.

FIFA Women’s World Cup: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

Which country has used the most cities while hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup?

Eight countries have hosted the FIFA Women’s World Cup across its nine iterations (including the upcoming 2023 tournament, which has two hosts). Each country has different capacities. Some cities are better prepared to host games than others. Some cities have multiple venues in them. But which host designated the most cities to fulfil the hosting duties? 

The World Cup 2023 this summer will be played in nine cities around Australia and New Zealand, which is the same amount as France had in 2019, and the same amount as Germany had in 2011. However, whereas France and Germany used nine stadiums across the nine cities, Australia and New Zealand will use ten stadiums. 

Which country has made the most appearances at a FIFA Women’s World Cup?

In its youthful state – only eight completed tournaments – and one biased early on to countries that, to their credit, enabled women’s football domestically in ways other countries refused or simply didn’t, means that there have been reliable regulars in the finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The teams that have appeared in the eight completed tournaments and the upcoming ninth are heavy hitters Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the United States, as well as their continent’s best, Brazil and Nigeria. 

What match had the highest attendance in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup?

Naturally, as in all World Cups from both the men’s and women’s games, there are games that only fans of participating countries will watch. That was the case when Nigeria met Canada in Helsingborg, Sweden, June 8th, 1995. Though, those 150 people were treated to an enthralling 3-3 draw, with Adaku Okoroafor clinching a spectacular comeback for Nigeria. 

Unsurprisingly, finals attract the most attention and are blessed to participate in the biggest stadiums to fit in as many spectators as possible. Capitalising on the radicalisation the 1994 men’s World Cup had begun in the United States, the 1999 women’s World Cup, hosted by the USA, saw the hosts face off against China – who had hosted the first World Cup. The match took place at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, then home to the LA Galaxy of the MLS. In total, 90,185 people packed into the iconic stadium to witness the USA lift their second World Cup title – won on penalties after a nervy 0-0 draw. (Their first being in 1991 – the inaugural competition – which took place in China.)

Who has scored the most goals in FIFA Women’s World Cup history?

Marta Vieira da Silva has been an enduring presence in women’s football’s recent history. Her 21-year career – which will likely see her in the Brazilian squad hoping to better their last few tournaments of strolling through group stages but falling in the round-of-16 – has been one that has seen her compete again and again at the highest level of the domestic and international game. Her goalscoring has kept her there. It is she who has scored the most goals in the FIFA Women’s World Cup history, with 17 to her name. She also has the most matches with a brace (5) and the most tournaments with at least a single goal (5). Enduring and brilliant. A Pelé to many.

Who has the most FIFA Women’s World Cup appearances?

Like Marta, there are many careers that have spanned decades at the very elite of women’s football – Christine Sinclair, the Canadian striker, for instance, who holds the record for the most tournaments as captain of their country (4). However, Kristine Lilly’s 16-year career, beginning with the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup, lands her in the record-holding position, with 30 appearances that resulted in 3 bronze medals and 2 World Cup winners medals.