FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003

FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003

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#WorldCupAtHome: Germany's golden goal that sealed historic success

Deutscher Jubel nach dem Spiel, rechts Nia KUENZER/GER, die das Goldengoal erzielt hat
© Getty Images

The FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003™ ended with a historic golden goal from Nia Kunzer. It sealed a maiden Women’s World Cup crown for Germany, who also became both the first country to win the title with a female coach and the first to taste success at the global showpiece with both their men’s and women’s teams.

The summary

Germany 2-1 Sweden - Germany won on golden goal
12 October 2003 | Home Depot Center, Carson (USA)

Goals: 0-1 Hanna Ljungberg (41’), 1-1 Maren Meinert (46’), 2-1 Nia Kunzer (golden goal, 98’)

Line-ups:

  • Germany: Silke Rottenberg – Kerstin Stegemann, Ariane Hingst, Sandra Minnert, Stefanie Gottschlich – Kerstin Garefrekes (Martina Muller 76’), Bettina Wiegmann (c), Renate Lingor, Pia Wunderlich (Nia Kunzer 88’) – Maren Meinert, Birgit Prinz
  • Sweden: Caroline Jonsson – Karolina Westberg, Jane Tornqvist, Hanna Marklund, Sara Larsson (Kristin Bengtsson 76’), Frida Ostberg – Malin Mostrom (c), Malin Andersson (Therese Sjogran 53’), Anna Sjostrom (Linda Fagerstrom 53’) – Hanna Ljungberg, Victoria Svensson

The stakes

Four years after USA won the 1999 edition in a dramatic penalty shootout, the 2003 Women’s World Cup reached a similarly gripping climax in the final. The fact that four of the five participating European teams reached the quarter-finals illustrated just how decisive the tournament was for sides from the Old Continent. Russia and Norway may have been eliminated in the last eight, but they nevertheless outperformed the respective Asian and African champions, Korea DPR and Nigeria, both of whom packed their bags for home after the group stage. Even more surprising was Germany’s 3-0 victory over a much-fancied USA side in the semi-finals.

The story

Germany and Sweden put on a high-quality spectacle in the final, with the former ultimately triumphing thanks to Kunzer’s golden goal in the eighth minute of extra time.

Before then, however, the Scandinavians had looked good and took the lead in the 41st minute through Hanna Ljungberg, who latched on to Victoria Svensson’s inch-perfect through ball before clinically slotting it under Silke Rottenberg and into the net. Despite that goal, Rottenberg was still named as Goalkeeper of the Tournament after the match. Ljungberg’s strike gave Sweden a deserved half-time advantage, but the goalscorer’s joy turned to despair in the closing minutes of normal time after squandering a glorious chance with the score tied at 1-1, as Maren Meinert equalised for Germany right at the start of the second half.

Ljungberg attempted to hit a cross from Frida Ostberg first time with her right foot, but she missed the ball completely and the chance was gone. Even the smallest of details can be decisive in a final, and this one was no different. The popular Swedish striker, undoubtedly one of the best players of the tournament, learned a harsh lesson that football can sometimes be very cruel.

Germany defended their title four years later, but Sweden were knocked out at the group stage.

The stars

It is difficult to select just one standout player from this Women’s World Cup. The star of a 17-year-old Marta was very much on the rise at the tournament, and she made a lasting impression with three goals in four games for Brazil. Her exceptional ball control and positional play even drew praise from China PR's head coach Ma Lianxing: "The way she plays points the way forward for football."

Abby Wambach, 23 at the time, was another to impress. Her technique, physical strength and tireless efforts to regain possession made her the most feared striker in the USA team. Both players’ names are now forever engraved in the annals of women’s football. The same goes for Germany’s Birgit Prinz, who not only took home the adidas Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player, but also the adidas Golden Boot for finishing as top scorer.

What they said

"There was a week's break between the semi-final and the final. It was difficult to maintain a high level of tension. We didn't do that as well as the Swedes did. They also had a really good team and in the final we had quite a lot of luck. Maybe that's what you need to win a World Cup, that little bit of luck."
Maren Meinert (Germany)

"At the time the disappointment was crushing, but with hindsight you just have to accept it. Back then social media wasn’t what it is today so we didn’t have any idea how big a deal it was in Sweden. We were a bit embarrassed at first when we were told we’d be taken on an open-top bus around Stockholm from the airport. We didn’t think anyone would come, but there were so many people there. That’s when it sunk in that we’d achieved something big. Yes, we lost the final, but we were really good."
Therese Sjogran (Sweden)

"At first I was confused and had absolutely no idea what had happened. I really didn’t realise what I’d done at first because my header really wasn’t that strong. Then after two or three seconds I felt the first of our players grab me around the neck and I realised we were world champions. It was an indescribable moment. Scoring to win the World Cup is always special. I didn’t care who scored, but the fact that it was me and it was a golden goal was crazy."
Nia Kunzer (Germany)

"Right now it feels really bad, but with a bit of time we can probably be very satisfied with ourselves. We finished as runners-up at the World Cup and only lost the final on a golden goal."
Hanna Ljunberg (Sweden)

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