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FIFA Women’s World Cup: A Look Back at Previous Winners – From USA’s Dominance to Japan’s Historic Triumph


As the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off with 32 teams vying for a spot in the final on August 20 in Sydney, Australia, it’s worth reflecting on the tournament’s rich history. Since the inaugural edition in 1991, several teams have etched their names on the list of former champions. Let’s take a journey through time and revisit the winners of this prestigious competition.

The 1991 Women’s World Cup marked the birth of a remarkable era. The tournament’s first final took place at a packed Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, China. The United States emerged victorious, securing a historic 2-1 win over Norway. Michelle Akers-Stahl’s brace propelled the American team to become the first-ever women’s world champions.

Four years later, in 1995, Norway turned the tables on the United States. After defeating the US in the semifinals, Norway faced Germany in the final at Rasunda Stadium in Solna, Sweden. Thanks to goals from Hege Riise and Marianne Pettersen, Norway clinched the title, leaving Germany as the runners-up.

The 1999 edition of the Women’s World Cup unfolded on American soil, captivating fans with its thrilling finale. In a sold-out Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a staggering 90,000 spectators witnessed the host nation lift the trophy for the second time. The USA faced a valiant China, resulting in a goalless draw. The match extended to a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, where Brianna Scurry’s heroics in goal and Brandi Chastain’s decisive spot-kick secured the victory for the US. Chastain’s celebration, famously depicted by her shirt-waving moment, is now immortalized with a statue at the Rose Bowl.

Germany enjoyed their golden moment in 2003 when the tournament was originally set to take place in China but had to be relocated to the United States due to a severe SARS outbreak. Facing Sweden in the final at Carson’s Home Depot Center, the Germans demonstrated resilience. Despite trailing early on, they rallied back to force extra time, and Nia Kunzer’s golden goal sealed their triumph.

The Women’s World Cup returned to China in 2007, bringing another captivating final. South American powerhouse Brazil showcased their prowess throughout the tournament but faltered at the final hurdle against the defending champions, Germany. Goals from Birgit Prinz and Simone Laudehr ensured a successful title defense for the German team.

The 2011 edition in Germany witnessed one of the competition’s greatest upsets. Japan, Asia’s second-ever finalists, defied all expectations by reaching the final against the United States in Frankfurt. After a hard-fought match, which included late equalizers in regular and extra time, the game was decided by penalties. Japan emerged as unlikely champions, capitalizing on the USA’s penalty shootout struggles to secure a historic victory.

Canada played host to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, featuring a rematch between the United States and Japan in the final. Seeking redemption from their previous loss, the Americans dominated the match early on, surging to a 3-0 lead within 14 minutes. Carli Lloyd’s stunning hat-trick, including a remarkable lob from the halfway line, cemented a resounding 5-2 victory and their third World Cup title.

In 2019, the Dutch national team faced the formidable USA in the final at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in France. Despite a spirited display from the Dutch, the USA’s quality shone through. A penalty converted by Megan Rapinoe and a marvelous solo effort by Rose Lavelle secured a 2-0 victory for the Americans, making them four-time world champions.

As we embark on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the stage is set for another captivating tournament, where one team will join the prestigious list of past winners. The quest for glory continues as nations strive to etch their names into women’s football history.


Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.


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