Thanks to their clinical 2-0 triumph over an in-form Brazil side
which had set the tournament alight on their way to the final,
Germany successfully defended their FIFA Women's World Cup
crown to cement their reputation as powerhouses in the women's
game. In doing so, the ever-consistent Europeans became the first
team ever to retain the trophy, although this was just one of many
milestones achieved by the champions of China 2007.
This year's showdown between Germany and Brazil was the first ever FIFA Women's World Cup final to be contested between European and South American opponents. UEFA representatives Germany, who entered the match with the tournament's best defensive record having conceded no goals in their five previous games, faced a free-scoring Brazil side which had netted 17 times en route to the decider, including four against fellow title contenders USA in the semi-finals.
A closely fought battle between defensive consistency and attacking flair ultimately ended with a victory for the defending champions. Under the guidance of head coach Silvia Neid, the German juggernaut effectively took Jorge Barcellos' aces out of the game. In particular, the holders kept a tight reign on their opponents' linchpin striker Marta, who was unable to get a clear shot on goal or link up effectively with her teammates. Birgit Prinz' 52-minute strike dealt a telling blow to the hopes of the challengers, who were subsequently forced onto the back foot. Just 12 minutes later the South Americans looked to have found a way back into the game when they were gifted a penalty. However, 21-year-old Marta had her spot-kick saved and Simone Laudehr went on to score a second goal for the holders on 86 minutes, putting paid to Brazil's hopes of a comeback.
Germany set a new tournament record by taking the world title without conceding a single goal in six matches, an achievement which owed much to the efficiency of a rearguard marshalled by Nadine Angerer. A succession of outstanding performances by the German stopper helped her break a record that had stood since the 1990 FIFA World Cup ™, when Italy's Walter Zenga went 517 minutes without conceding a goal.
At the other end of the field, another record was being chalked up by adidas Silver Ball winner Birgit Prinz. Having played a key role in her side's 3-0 semi-final win over Norway, Germany's top scorer became the first woman to appear in three Finals. The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year previously led her team to victory in the concluding match of the 2003 edition having already seen her side lose to Norway in the 1995 instalment. With her consistent finishing and ability to score match winners at crucial times, the 29-year-old markswoman set a shining example to the many up-and-coming young stars who emerged during the tournament.
Brazil cement reputation
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year's FIFA Women's World Cup was the attacking flair of a Brazil side inspired by talismanic forward Marta. The FIFA Women's World Player of 2006 dazzled spectators with her dribbling skills to clinch both the adidas Golden Shoe and Golden Ball awards.
While a lack of experience perhaps cost them the world crown, Brazil's exhilarating brand of football won them plaudits from fans and experts like. The Auriverde were voted the tournament's most entertaining team by FIFA.com users with 42.12 per cent of the vote, leaving champions Germany trailing in their wake on 18 per cent. Although the Canarinha lost the Final against the defending champions, their attacking prowess was amply demonstrated in the match statistics: 57 per cent possession, 14 shots on goal and five corners.
Despite seeing their early two-goal advantage whittled away by a tough Australia side in the quarter-finals, Cristiane fired in a long-range winner on 75 minutes to set up a semi-final date with USA. The Auriverde then demonstrated their devastating firepower to full effect with a 4-0 win, earning themselves a first ever appearance in the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup and consigning the pre-tournament favourites to their heaviest defeat in history. Marta's second goal in that match, a cheeky backheel flick followed by a well-placed strike, became one of the most replayed highlights of the tournament.
AFC stars hold their nerve
Judging by the powerful displays of teams such as Korea DPR, Australia and England, the 16 participants in this year's tournament proved to be more evenly matched than ever.
In particular, the four Asian qualifiers showed that they have the mental strength to hold their nerve alongside the world's best. Whether it was Korea DPR's spirit in coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with USA, or Japan's last-minute equaliser in the match against England, the AFC representatives demonstrated their ability to eke out results in the face of adversity. Then there was Australia, who waited until stoppage time in their final group game with Canada to secure qualification to the last eight. The Matildas proceeded to give Brazil a scare in the quarter-final before seeing their dream ended by Cristiane's late winner. And although they failed to reach the last four, the Australian girls' high-tempo passing game and never-say-die approach left a lasting impression on the fans.
Despite seeing their hopes of a second world title dashed at the semi-final stage, USA nonetheless managed to claim third position on the podium. The team's veteran striker Kristine Lilly became the only woman to have played in all five FIFA Women's World Cups, while top scorer Abby Wambach scooped the adidas Silver Shoe award. Meanwhile, North American neighbours Canada narrowly failed to qualify from the group phase after conceding a stoppage-time equaliser to Australia. It was a cruel blow for the Canucks and marked the climax of a finely poised game whose result few would have dared to predict.
Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, China PR, Denmark, England, Ghana, Korea DPR, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, USA
Host stadiums, cities:
Hongkou Football Stadium (Shanghai), Olympic Centre Stadium (Tianjin), Sport Center Stadium (Chengdu), Dragon Stadium (Hangzhou), Sports Center Stadium (Wuham)
No. of goals:
111 (average goals/game: 3.47)
7 goals: Marta (Brazil)
6 goals: Wambach (USA)
6 Goals: Ragnhild Gulbrandsen (Norway)