Power shift in Portland as Germany dethrone USA

  • We relive a classic Women’s World Cup encounter from 2003

  • Germany beat holders USA 3-0 en route to their first world title

  • Julie Foudy: “It felt like the Germans had a 12th player”

Having won five of the seven editions between them, USA and Germany are firmly established as the most successful nations in FIFA Women’s World Cup history. But back in 2003, there was no doubt which of this heavyweight duo held top billing.

The Americans were, after all, two-time winners, holders and hosts, having stepped in to stage the tournament again following the SARS outbreak in China. They had an all-star team featuring the likes of Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain and an impressive youngster by the name of Abby Wambach. Germany, on the other hand, had fallen short in each of their previous three World Cup campaigns.

There was, however, to be a spectacular power shift, and it took place in Portland on 5 October 2003.

While few in the crowd had expected it to be easy for the US – it had taken the odd goal in five to see off the Germans four years earlier – no-one expected the comprehensive 3-0 defeat that followed.

Defender Kate Markgraf, reflecting years later, made the plain-speaking admission that the Stars & Stripes “got our asses kicked”. "The entire game we got manhandled,” she said. “They were destroying us, playing right around us."

So superior were the European champions that US star Julie Foudy, writing for ESPN, remembered "feeling like the Germans had a 12th player”.

This was a recollection shared by Hamm, the Americans' star player, who said it was the only time in her career that she experienced such a sensation. "At one point, I even started counting their players," the US talisman recalled. "They were sending so many players through. I spent so much time playing defence.”

Germany went on to win the trophy by beating Sweden in the Final, and four years later they would become the first and, to date, only team to retain the Women’s World Cup. For the US, and the rest of women's football, the gauntlet had been laid down.

Did you know? This semi-final was a tactical triumph for Tina Theune-Meyer, and the Germany coach’s fascinating preparatory notes feature in the FIFA World Football Museum’s USA 2003 showcase.