The Opening Match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ always exudes a special kind of magic, and after four long years of waiting, the footballing world will finally get to see hosts Canada take on China PR on Saturday night. When the referee’s whistle signals the start of the encounter, it will be a sweet sound not just for the 22 players on the pitch, but also fans around the globe who have had to endure four years without the excitement of a World Cup.
The hosts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ traditionally deliver strong performances in their first game – with the sole exception of Sweden in 1995. So get you in the mood for the big kick-off, FIFA.com looks back through the history of the tournament’s Opening Matches.
16 November 1991, China PR 4-0 Norway, Guangzhou, China PR
The Asian hosts of the first-ever Women’s World Cup made a flying start to their campaign by soundly defeating Norway in front of a stunning crowd of 65,000, with Liu Ailing scoring a brace shortly after half-time to steer her team towards a win. The Scandinavians were not unduly rattled by this early setback and would go on to reach the final, narrowly losing 2-1 to USA. For their part, China PR went as far as the quarter-finals, where Sweden ended their hopes.
5 June 1995, Sweden 0-1 Brazil, Helsingborg, Sweden
Things were very different for the Swedes at the start of their home World Cup, as Brazil’s Roseli scored to upset the hosts. The result would prove to be A Seleção’s sole success at the tournament, with a 2-1 loss to Japan being followed by a 6-1 rout at the hands of Germany. Meanwhile Sweden won their remaining group matches, before succumbing to China PR in a quarter-final penalty shootout.
19 June 1999, USA 3-0 Denmark, New Jersey, USA
Sixteen years ago, the USA delivered an impressive display of strength for their home fans, but their dominant performance against the Danes in front of a record crowd of 78,972 was only the start. The Stars and Stripes lifted the title that year without suffering a single loss, scoring 18 goals along the way while conceding just three.
20 September 2003, Norway 2-0 France, Philadelphia, USA
In a first for the Women’s World Cup, it was not the hosts who contested the Opening Match but two teams from the Old Continent. Despite this honour, neither side gained any momentum from this game, with France failing to progress past the group stage while Norway suffered a quarter-final defeat. After ten successive World Cup victories, hosts USA were finally forced to abandon their title defence after being beaten by Germany in the semi-finals.
10 September 2007, Germany 11-0 Argentina, Shanghai, China PR
The hosts sat out the Opening Match again four years later as defending champions Germany crushed their South American opponents to record the highest scoring win in the history of the Women’s World Cup. Birgit Prinz and Sandra Smisek both netted hat-tricks at the start of a remarkable campaign in which the Germans defended their title without conceding a single goal – another World Cup record.
26 June 2011, Germany 2-1 Canada, Berlin, Germany
Although expectations were sky high when the champions of the past two editions of the competition began their latest campaign on home soil, Silvia Neid’s team soaked up the pressure to narrowly defeat this year’s hosts Canada in front of a crowd of 73,680. Although this result was followed by victories against Nigeria and France, the holders were beaten by eventual world champions Japan after extra time in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile the Canucks failed to pick up a single point to exit the tournament after the group stage for the fourth time.
*6 June 2015, Canada-China PR, Edmonton, Canada *
“The further the hosts go, the greater the euphoria among the country’s fans,” said Nia Kunzer, German 2003 world champion and last scorer of a golden goal in footballing history, in an interview with FIFA.com when asked to summarise the pressure of a home World Cup. As Canada and China PR are both veterans of the competition with experience of contesting Opening Matches, it remains to be seen who will hold their nerve better come Saturday evening. Regardless of who wins, history has shown that the result of the first game gives little indication of how a team might fare in the rest of the tournament.