Ma Li Scores the First Ever Women’s World Cup Goal (1991)
The inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991 bore witness to a landmark event. In the opening match, host country China locked horns with Norway at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium.
In an electrifying 22nd minute, the home crowd was sent into a frenzy as defender Ma Li (马莉) outmanoeuvred the Norwegian defence and headed in the first-ever goal in FIFA Women's World Cup history. This significant goal was the catalyst for a flurry of goals that saw China dominate Norway, the eventual runners-up, with a 4-0 victory.
Reflecting on this monumental moment with FIFA.com, Ma Li said, “I wasn't aware of this when I scored. We were so tense in the opening game and I was totally focused on my play. The set piece from the right came so fast from Wu Wei Ying's free-kick, all I needed to do was fling myself and nod in, almost effortlessly".
USWNT's Epic Equalizer (2011)
The 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup quarter-final between the USA and Brazil was a rollercoaster of emotions. Controversial refereeing decisions seemed to stack the odds against the Americans, but they persevered. A red card to USA defender Rachel Buehler and a re-taken penalty kick that Brazil converted levelled the score. Brazil then took the lead in extra time under contentious circumstances.
Yet, just as everything seemed to be conspiring against the Americans, they produced a moment of magic. In the 122nd minute, Megan Rapinoe launched a ball into the box from just beyond the halfway line. Abby Wambach rose above the Brazilian goalkeeper to meet the ball, scoring the latest-ever goal in World Cup history, men's or women's. The match went to penalties, and the USA advanced to the semi-finals. This remarkable game is a testament to the resilience and fighting spirit of the USWNT.
Germany’s Impenetrable Defence (2007)
The 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup was set ablaze by the exceptional performance of Germany's DFB-Frauenteam. They stormed through the tournament in China, en route to securing their second FIFA Women’s World Cup title.
This extraordinary campaign is hard to compare with any other team's performance in any sporting event. Germany left an indelible mark right from its first match, where the team trounced Argentina 11-0. Subsequent matches saw Germany tie with England in a goalless draw and clinch a 2-0 victory over Japan.
Germany’s successful run continued in the knockout stages, where the side defeated North Korea and Norway with a 3-0 scoreline, leading up to a much-anticipated final against Brazil, spearheaded by the incomparable Marta. Germany emerged victorious in the finals, defeating Brazil 2-0. The triumph was even more astonishing as Germany didn't concede a single goal throughout the tournament.
Germany's goalkeeper, Nadine Angerer, stood as an impenetrable fortress, leading to an extraordinary accomplishment that's likely to remain unparalleled.
Bizarre Coaching Decision and Marta's Masterclass (2007)
While the USA women's national team is renowned for its success, the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup was a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of football. Prior to the semi-final against Brazil, head coach Greg Ryan made the puzzling decision to bench starting goalkeeper Hope Solo in favour of backup Briana Scurry. The move was a gamble that backfired spectacularly.
Miscommunication among the USA defenders led to an own goal within 20 minutes of the match. Following this setback, Brazil's Marta capitalised on the disarray in the USA defence, scoring twice and leading Brazil to a 4-0 victory. This loss was the USA's largest in Women's World Cup history, making it a tournament that fans and players would remember for all the wrong reasons.
Carli Lloyd's Audacious Hat Trick (2015)
The 2015 Women's World Cup final was a thrilling display of sheer brilliance by Carli Lloyd. Lloyd's hat trick during the match was nothing short of brazen, and it felt as though we were witnessing a video game played on easy mode. A combination of yellow card suspensions and tactical changes allowed Lloyd to roam more freely as a striker during the knockout rounds, setting the stage for her memorable performance against Japan in the final.
The first goal was a clever tap-in after a well-executed corner kick, the second was a quick reaction to a back-heeled flick from Julie Ertz, but the pièce de résistance was Lloyd's third goal. In an audacious move, Lloyd flicked the ball past a Japanese defender in the USA's half and sent a 50-yard shot into the net, catching the goalkeeper off guard. The goal was a daring display of skill and confidence that will forever be remembered in the annals of World Cup history.