Did You Know

Did You Know

History of Women’s Football

Women have been playing the beautiful game for much longer than most people think. In fact, women’s football has been drawing crowds for almost 100 years. In 1920, more than 50,000 spectators crowded into Goodison Park, Liverpool to watch England’s unofficial women’s side – a team from a munitions factory in Preston – play a charity match in aid of servicemen, hospitals and needy children.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup

The first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991 in China. Twelve teams contested this inaugural Women’s World Cup Final with the unbeaten U.S.A meeting Norway in the final. The score was 1-1 late in the game and seemed destined to go into extra-time, until the tournament’s top scorer, Michelle Akers, scored the winning goal for the U.S. in front of a crowd of 65,000 at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium. Sweden took home the bronze medal following their victory over Germany in the 3rd / 4th place play off.

The eight Women’s World Cup Tournaments to date have been won by four countries. The United States have been victorious on four occasions and are the current champions after defeating The Netherlands 2-0 in the 2019 Final in France. The other winners are Germany with two titles and Japan & Norway one title each.

Six countries have hosted the Women's World Cup Finals Tournament. China and the United States have each hosted the tournament twice, while Canada, France, Germany, and Sweden have each hosted it once.

The 1999 Finals held in the USA saw the number of teams participating increase to sixteen. It also saw the largest attendance for a Women’s World Cup Final, which still stands today, when 90,185 spectators crammed into the Rose Bowl in California to watch the USA defeat China 5-4 on penalties. That game and the tournament itself was to prove to be a seminal moment in the history of the women’s game and made household names of many of the US players, including Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain.

A devastating outbreak of the SARS disease forced FIFA to switch the venue for the 2003 Women's World Cup from China to the USA in what was a desperate attempt to keep the event on schedule. Luckily, everything came off without a hitch and World Cup debutantes France, Korea Republic and Argentina, were introduced into the finals. The first semi-final surprised the watching world when Germany pulled off a 3-0 win against strong favourites and reigning champions the USA and so progressed to the finals were they met Sweden who had defeated Canada 2-1 in the other semi-final. The Germans were crowned World Champions for the first time, with their captain Birgit Prinz the star of the tournament, winning both the Golden Shoe and Golden Ball awards. Finalist Sweden were runners-up with USA a disappointing third. The 2003 Tournament was also the first time in the history of the tournament that FIFA awarded monetary bonuses to all teams in the tournament.

The 2007 event was held in China, something agreed in 2003 when the Finals that year were switched at a very late stage due to the outbreak of SARS. Current title holders Germany took on Brazil in the final, a country who had never before won a major world title or reached the finals of any of the previous events. It was also the first time in the history of the Women's World Cup that a European and South American team met each other in the final. Germany had not conceded a single goal in the entire competition whereas Brazil were free-scoring on their way to the final. Led by striker Marta, who scored 7 goals, they had scored seventeen goals on route to the final, including four against title-rivals USA whom they defeated in the semi-finals. Germany eventually defeated Brazil 2-0 after extra time in a closely fought contest.

The Germans were hosts for the 2011 Finals and went into that event as one of the hot favourites for the title, however they failed to live up to expectations and went out in the quarter finals to eventual winners Japan. The USA were aiming to become the first team to win the title for the third time, it was also 12 years since they had contested a final. However the Japanese, playing in their first finals, got stronger as the tournament progressed and despite being pretty much outplayed in the final by the USA, they became the only team to lose a group stage match and win the final when they defeated the Americans 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out.

The 2015 tournament was held in Canada, with the number of finalists expanded to 24 teams. This expansion of participating teams saw eight new countries make their World Cup debut, it also saw all previous finalists qualify. Goal-line technology was introduced for the first time at this tournament, it is also synonymous for being the only finals – for women or men – being played on artificial turf. The final was a repeat of the 2011 final between USA and Japan, with both teams undefeated throughout the tournament. The United States had only conceded one goal in the six matches leading up to the final, with Japan winning all of their matches in regular time. However USA shot out of the blocks in the final, leading 4-0 inside 16 mins, with Carli Lloyd scoring the fastest hat-trick in the history of the World Cup. The match eventually finished 5-2 with the combined 7 goals being the most scored in a Women’s World Cup Final.

The 2019 World Cup Finals was hosted by France with 24 teams again taking part. For the first time since 2007 the final featured a European team when The Netherlands, playing in only their second finals tournament, progressed to take on favourites and defending champions, the USA. Seven of the eight quarter finalists were also from Europe showing the strength of women’s football on this continent. However the USA proved too strong for the ‘Oranje’ and ran out 2-0 victors to win the trophy for a record fourth time and becoming the second nation after Germany, to successfully retain the trophy.

This World Cup was the most watched Finals Tournament in the history of our game. There were over 1 billion TV viewers worldwide, a 30% increase on those who watched the 2015 Finals. The final itself was watched by a live worldwide audience of 82 million, up 56% from those who watched the 2015 version and the average live match audience of 17.2 million, was more than double that of 2015. That, along with the increased level of athleticism and technical ability shown by all teams, marks this World Cup as a landmark in the history of Women’s Football.