When Norway conquered the world
Norway won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1995
They beat the likes of USA, England and Germany en route to glory
Current side are aiming to emulate their legendary predecessors
Only four nations have ever won the FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Norway, with a population of just five million, is the smallest of the four by a considerable distance.
But despite being dwarfed by Germany, USA and Japan, the other members of that elite quartet, the Norwegians were genuine heavyweights in the early decades of international women’s football. Between 1987 and 2000, they were twice crowned European champions, won Olympic gold, reached two Women’s World Cup Finals and, in 1995, took home the trophy.
“That was the best moment of my career without any doubt,” Hege Riise, the team’s star player, told FIFA.com. “Winning the Olympics (in Sydney in 2000) was wonderful, but the flow of the tournament wasn’t the same. That '95 World Cup was my best experience.”
Riise, the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, memorably lit up the Final with one of the all-time great Women’s World Cup goals, jinking away from two German defenders before curling home an inch-perfect right-foot shot. “Some moments you just can’t forget and that goal in the final is one for me,” she reflected.
It capped a wonderful tournament for Riise and Norway, who had racked up an aggregate score of 17-0 against group opponents Canada, England and Nigeria before brushing aside Denmark in the quarter-finals. A rematch with USA, who had beaten them in the 1991 Final, then followed - and revenge was exacted thanks to Kristin Aarones’ solitary first-half strike.
“It’s not often that Norway wins a World Cup in football, certainly not for the men’s team,” said Aarones, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer. “We started early with women’s football in Norway and we had a very good team in the '90s. It was important for Norwegian women’s football that we won big competitions and it meant a lot for the country to win a gold medal at the World Cup.”
Norway will, of course, be back on the global stage at France 2019, and captain Maren Mjelde has spoken about the challenge of living up to those heroines of ‘95. “The fact that we won the World Cup is a source of a lot of pride for all of us,” she told FIFA.com. “But while we have great traditions and we want to live up to those, it’s harder than ever to do that because teams who were nowhere back in the 90s are really major forces now.
“We’re feeling really positive about ourselves though, and the feeling is ‘Why can’t we do something special?’”
‘Special’ would certainly be an apt description for the team that conquered the world in Sweden 24 years ago. In a few weeks’ time, we will see how Mjelde & Co measure up to the lofty standard set by Riise, Aarones and the class of ’95."
Did you know?
Among the Women’s World Cup artefacts at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich are a Riise shirt from that era, a winner’s medal from the 1995 edition and the first incarnation of the trophy. Norway were the last team to lift that version before a new design was introduced for USA 1999.