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See the History of the Women’s World Cup in 8 Extraordinary Moments

3 minute read

1991: Michelle Akers leads the U.S. to victory in the first ever Women’s World Cup

Michelle Akers-Stahl us womens world cup 1991
Tommy Cheng—AFP/Getty Images

On Nov. 30, 1991 Michelle Akers, center, scored two goals for the U.S. to win the first FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football. She is seen here holding the trophy together with teammates Julie Foudy, left, and Carin Jennings, right.

1999: Brandi Chastain scores goal in penalty shootout to beat China

Brandi Chastain US china 1999 world cup
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images

On July 10, 1999 Brandi Chastain scored the fifth and final goal in a penalty shootout to lead the U.S. to victory over China. Her famous celebration made the moment one of the most iconic in sports history.

2003: Nia Kunzer scores a 98th-minute goal to defeat Sweden in the final

womens world cup 2003 germany sweden
Steve Grayson—WireImage/Getty Images

On Oct. 12, 2003, Nia Kuenzer of Germany scored the winning goal against Kristin Bengtsson of Sweden during overtime in the final. She became the first woman to win the German title “Goal of the Year” for her late-game shot.

2007: Brazil’s Marta scores to defeat the U.S.

brazil us womens world cup 2007
Feng Li—Getty Images

On Sept. 27, 2007 Marta of Brazil scored one of the most memorable game winners in the history of the Women’s World Cup. The goal won Brazil the semi-final match against the U.S.

2007: English forward Kelly Smith kisses her boot after scoring back-to-back goals against Japan

womens world cup 2007 japan england kelly smith
Paul Gilham—Getty Images

It wasn’t just through her skills that England’s Kelly Smith captured the world’s attention. Her famous celebration after scoring against Japan on Sept. 11, 2007 cemented her as a Women’s World Cup celebrity.

2007: Germany beats Brazil in the final

2007 womens world cup brazil germany
Guang Niu—Getty Images

The Sept. 30, 2007 final was truly a contest between an unstoppable force (Brazil had 17 goals the way to the final) and an immovable object (Germany had not given up a single goal). In the end Germany prevailed, holding onto their perfect defensive run, winning the game 2-0 and becoming the first team to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups.

2011: Team USA beats Brazil in the quarterfinal

brazil us women's world cup soccer
Alexandra Beier—FIFA/Getty Images

After 120 minutes of regular time and extra time, the U.S. and Brazil were locked in a 2-2 standoff in the quarterfinals on July 10, 2011. Abby Wambach scored a late-game equalizer to push the game to a penalty shootout where Hope Solo made two diving saves to bring the U.S. to victory.

2011: Japan defeats the U.S. to win the World Cup

japan us women's world cup final 2011
Christof Stache—AFP/Getty Images

Only months after the devastating earthquake off the coast of Japan, the Japanese clenched their first Women’s World Cup victory on July 17, 2011. After a close match that ended tied 2-2, the game was decided in a penalty shootout, 3-1 in favor of Japan.

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