Women's football celebrated its true coming of age in
November of 1991 when the Women's World Championship was
brought to life on the ambitious initiative of Dr. João Havelange,
FIFA President at that time.
The first competition kicked off in the People's Republic of China to large and enthusiastic crowds. With twelve nations competing, it proved to be a resounding success.
In keeping with the true spirit of the celebration, six female referees or assistant referees were appointed among match officials for the first time in FIFA history. Claudia de Vasconcelos of Brazil, the referee for the 3rd-place match, became the first woman to officiate at this level for FIFA.
The American team, led by a dominating forward line dubbed -The Triple-Edged Sword- by the Chinese media, tore through the tournament to win the first-ever world championship for women's football.
Michelle Akers, Carin Jennings and April Heinrichs combined to score 20 of the 25 goals for the U.S., including all five (Jennings 3, Heinrichs 2) in a 5-2 semifinal victory over Germany and both goals (Akers) in a 2-0 win over Norway to win the title.
In Group A, Norway rebounded from a stunning 4-0 loss to host China in its opening match to advance all the way to the Women's World Cup Final, sneaking past Italy in overtime of the quarterfinals, before crushing Sweden in the semifinals, 4-1, on two goals by Linda Medalen. China had the opposite fortune, drawing Denmark, 2-2, in group play before going out in the quarterfinals to Sweden, 1-0, in one of the most disappointing results in their history.
Group B was dominated by the United States. The USA built a 3-0 lead over Sweden before holding on for the 3-2 victory to open group play. A 5-0 victory over Brazil and a 3-0 win over Japan set the stage for a dominating series of results in the knockout rounds.
The Americans crushed the Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals, 7-0, on five goals from Akers, before Jenning's hat trick dispatched Germany in the semifinals, 5-2. Sweden picked up two wins in Group B play and defeated China in the quarterfinals for a historic win on a third-minute goal from Pia Sundhage, but got steam-rolled by Norway in the semifinals.
In Group C, Germany routed Nigeria, 4-0 then defeated Chinese Taipei, 3-0. The Germans then defeated Italy, 2-0, to earn first place in the Group. It took Germany overtime to defeat Denmark in the quarterfinals, before falling to the Americans in the semifinals.
The final match was the perfect finish for the inaugural tournament. The Americans claimed the first-ever Women's World Cup title over Norway, 2-1, before a crowd of 65,000 at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium.
The match seemed destined for overtime, until Akers scored the winning goal in the waning minutes. With three minutes remaining, Akers pounced on an errant back pass from Norway's Tina Svensson to goalie Reidun Seth. Akers touched the ball past Seth and slotted a right-footed shot into the untended goal, giving U.S. Soccer their first world championship of any kind.
Of those last few minutes, U.S. coach Anson Dorrance later said, "I felt like I was creating diamonds in my lower intestines from the pressure."