Landmarks and legends

The last five editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ have certainly given us games, goals and great players that will live long in the memory. With the Opening Match of the Germany 2011 edition set to kick off in Berlin in just two days’ time, takes a look back at some of the highlights of this prestigious tournament.

Starting things off

The first official FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991, following the success of a 1988 trial tournament hosted in the same country, and comprised 12 teams divided into three first-round groups. The Opening Match was held on 16 November between Norway and China in front of 65,000 spectators, who witnessed the home side dominate in a one-sided 4-0 win. Eventual champions United States were the stars of the tournament, with striker Michelle Akers winning the adidas Golden Shoe for topping the scorers’ list with ten goals - five of which came in USA’s 7-0 thrashing of Chinese Taipei.

Norway get in on the act

Over the course of its history, FIFA Women’s World Cup glory has dominated by woman’s football powerhouses USA and Germany, with the duo winning four of the tournament’s five editions to date. The only exception came at Sweden 1995, when unfancied Norway shocked the Germans 2-0 at the Rasunda stadium outside Stockholm to take the coveted crown.

Nobody could suggest that success was not deserved, however, with the Norwegians scoring 23 goals en route to the title (17 of which came in the group stages) and conceding just once - in their quarter-final match against Denmark. Sweden’s Ingrid Jonsson also made history by becoming the first woman to referee in the final of a FIFA competition.

Record attendance

Hosts USA could be justifiably proud of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, not least because of the tournament’s record-breaking attendance figures. Indeed, a total of 1.2 million spectators flocked to grounds over the course of the competition. Attendance levels were high throughout, with 80,000 in the stands for the Opening Match between USA and Denmark in New York.

The best, however, was saved for last in the shape of the Final between the hosts and China PR. Attending the title decider at a packed Rose Bowl in Los Angeles were 90,000 fans, including former US President Bill Clinton, while a further 40 million followed the match on television.

“The whole country is caught up,” said Clinton at the time. “It's going to have a bigger impact than people ever realized, and it will have a far-reaching impact not only in the United States but also in other countries.”

The game was still goalless by the end of extra time and so another milestone was reached: the first penalty shoot-out in a FIFA Women’s World Cup Final. In the event, USA defender Brandi Chastain blasted the ball past the Chinese goalkeeper to notch her team’s fifth and decisive penalty and secure them their second FIFA Women’s World Cup triumph.

Golden goal settles Final

The spread of SARS in scheduled host country China PR placed the 2003 tournament in jeopardy, but FIFA managed to persuade the USA to step in and ensure the competition started on time. The Final, played at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, was once again witness to an historical first. With Sweden and Germany evenly matched with one goal apiece at the end of full time the stage was set for extra time and the possibility of the first Golden Goal in FIFA Women’s World Cup history.

Germany midfielder Nia Kunze did not disappoint, striking in the 98th minute to win the national women’s side their first ever world crown. After the match her team-mate Birgit Prinz was awarded the adidas Golden Ball in addition to the adidas Golden Shoe award for topping the scorers’ table with seven goals.

Prinz’s FIFA Women’s World Cup heroics and consistently stellar performances subsequently earned her the FIFA World Player of the Year award three years in a row, between 2003 and 2005.

Miraculous Marta

Though won by Germany, few would disagree that the individual star of the show at China 2007 was the extravagantly talented Brazilian forward Marta. From the South Americans’ very first match, a 5-0 drubbing of New Zealand, it was clear that Marta was a very special player indeed.

And though her two goals in this game were spectacular enough, it was in the semi-final against the USA that the then 21-year-old showed the world the true extent of her breathtaking abilities, scoring what many consider to be the finest goal in the tournament’s history in a 4-0 defeat of a USA team on a 51-game unbeaten run. Though Brazil ended up going down to a staunch Germany side in the Final, Marta’s adidas Golden Ball and Golden Shoe awards paid testimony to the tournament’s true hero.