FIFA Women's World Cup China PR 1991

FIFA Women's World Cup China PR 1991

16 November - 30 November


USA triumph as history made in China PR 

FIFA Women`s World Cup China PR 1991
© Others
  • USA win inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991
  • Carin Jennings wins Golden Ball, Michelle Akers takes Golden Boot
  • Six female referees or assistant referees appointed for first time in FIFA history

Women's football celebrated its true coming of age in November of 1991 when the FIFA Women's World Cup was brought to life.

The first competition kicked off in China PR to large and enthusiastic crowds. With 12 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 Stars and Stripes, including all five (Jennings 3, Heinrichs 2) in a 5-2 semi-final victory over Germany as well as both goals (Akers) in a 2-0 win over Norway to win the title.

Michelle Akers-Stahl (C) who scored two goals for the USA to win the first FIFA Women's World Cup on November 30, 1991, holds the trophy together with teammates Julie Foudy (L) and Carin Jennings (R).
© Getty Images

American goal bonanza

In Group A, Norway rebounded from a stunning 4-0 loss to hosts China PR in their opening match to advance all the way to the Women's World Cup Final, sneaking past Italy in extra time of the quarter-finals, before crushing Sweden in the semi-finals, 4-1, with two goals by Linda Medalen. China had the opposite fortune, drawing Denmark, 2-2, in group play before going out in the quarter-finals to Sweden, 1-0, in one of the most disappointing results in their history. New Zealand, who edged Australia in qualifying, were competitive but ultimately suffered three defeats.

Group B was dominated by USA. The Americans built a 3-0 lead over Sweden before holding on for the 3-2 victory to open the group stage. 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 Chinese Taipei in the quarter-finals, 7-0, with five goals from Akers, before a Jennings hat-trick helped dispatch Germany in the semi-finals, 5-2. Sweden picked up two wins in Group B play and defeated China in the quarter-finals for a historic win on a third-minute goal from Pia Sundhage, but got steam-rolled by Norway in the semi-finals.

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 extra time to defeat Denmark in the quarter-finals, before falling to the Americans in the semi-finals.

FIFA Women`s World Cup China PR 1991
© Others

Maiden finale

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 extra time, 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 goalkeeper Reidun Seth. Akers touched the ball past Seth and slotted a right-footed shot into the untended goal, giving USA their first world championship.

Of those last few minutes, USA coach Anson Dorrance later said: "I felt like I was creating diamonds in my lower intestines from the pressure."

Participating nations

USA, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, China PR, Japan, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand.

Final Placings

  1. USA
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. Germany


Guangzhou, Foshan, Jiangmen, Panyu, Zhongshan.


99 (3.8 goals per game)


510,000 (19,615 average per match)


adidas Golden Ball: Carin Jennings (USA)
adidas Silver Ball: Michelle Akers (USA)
adidas Bronze Ball: Linda Medalen (Norway)

adidas Golden Boot: Michelle Akers (USA), 10 goals
adidas Silver Boot: Heidi Mohr (Norway), 7 goals
adidas Bronze Boot: Carin Jennings (USA) and Linda Medalen (Norway) 6 goals

FIFA Fair Play award: Norway


Knockout Phase


FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Timeline