Without ado: eight moments that will go down in Women’s World Cup history.
Marta breaks World Cup goals record (2019)
Marta has featured in five World Cups during her tenure in the Brazilian national team and this past summer, she broke the record for the most World Cup goals scored for men or women. This World Cup started off uncertain for the Brazilian superstar as she came into it injured and on the decline, but she popped up at a crucial moment to give her country a big 1-0 win over Italy to help them qualify for the knockout rounds.
Marta sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with her 74th minute penalty and picked up her 17th World Cup goal, making her the sole holder of the record to date. We may never see Marta in another World Cup again but her influence will never be forgotten and it was only fitting that she be the one to break the record.
Both Scotland and Argentina came into this match looking for their first ever World Cup win and it proved to be one of the more entertaining and controversial draws you will ever see at a World Cup. Scotland went ahead through Kim Little in the 19th minute and Jane Beattie made it two in the 49th minute. When Erin Cuthbert made it three in the 69th minute, most people looked to Scotland to add more goals and ensure their place in the Round of 16 but Argentina had other ideas. Milagros Menéndez pulled one back for Argentina in the 74th minute, Lee Alexander palmed a shot into her own net five minutes later and Sophie Howard then gave away a late penalty, allowing Argentina to complete an improbable comeback.
The drama did not end there. Florencia Bonsegundo’s first penalty and rebound was saved by Alexander but VAR came into play and the penalty had to be retaken due to Alexander not being on her line when the penalty was taken. To add insult to injury, Alexander also earned a yellow card due to that infringement. Bonsegundo did not miss a second time and brought her country back on level terms. Scotland were knocked out of the World Cup and Argentina kept their knock out round dreams alive.
Japan winning the World Cup (2011)
After a devastating earthquake and tsunami that left over 15,000 people dead, Japan carried the weight of a nation on their shoulders when they began the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. They qualified second out of their group and faced a quarter-final draw against hosts Germany. It took a 108th minute goal by Karina Maruyama to send the hosts out of the competition and Japan towards a semi-final match against European giants Sweden. That game ended with a 3-1 win for Japan after two goals from Nahomi Kawasumi and Homare Sawa to book their place into the final against the United States of America. In every game during the knock out stages and in the final, Japan were considered underdogs but they showed a style of play and a determined spirit that lifted them past teams many considered superior to them.
The 2011 World Cup final remains one of the greatest finals in World Cup history as Japan came back twice after conceding to take the game to penalties where Ayumi Kaihori became a national hero with three saves during that shootout. Japan broke American hearts but gained the admiration of not only their opponents, but the rest of the world as well.
Brazil vs USA (2011)
Any time that Brazil and the USWNT play each other, expect fireworks. In 2011, that was no different. This was the match that brought the USWNT fully into the consciousness of the American general public and cemented their status as one of the most beloved teams that the U.S. had to offer. For many (including myself) this was their first introduction to women’s soccer and what an introduction it proved to be. The USWNT started strong and found an early lead but could not keep Brazil at bay forever as Marta brought her country back on level terms in the 68th minute thankt to a Marta penalty. That penalty by Marta was the start of a truly epic encounter as Cristiane’s initial attempt had been saved by Hope Solo but the referee ordered a retake for encroachment, something that did not go down well with the USWNT and the crowd watching in Dresden that day. The USWNT then had to play the rest of the match with 10 players as Rachel Buehler had been sent off after giving away the penalty and it felt almost inevitable that Brazil and Marta would find a goal to put them ahead which they did in extra time.
Like many teams before them, the USWNT showed a will to keep fighting no matter what the circumstances were, and late in extra time, Abby Wambach put them back on level terms and pushed the game to penalties. Despite being on their last legs, the USWNT looked the more confident side and it showed in their penalties as they converted each one. Solo also produced the save she had been denied earlier in the game and helped her team advance to the next stage. A truly memorable game in what turned out to be a memorable World Cup overall.
Thailand score their first ever World Cup goal (2019)
Thailand reached their inaugural World Cup this past summer and although their were no match for the other teams in that group (USA, Sweden and Chile), they captured the hearts of many when they scored their first ever World Cup goal. Thailand’s story is not irregular in the women’s game as many countries are still fighting for financial support from the respective federations so for them to even make it to the World Cup was something they could only have dreamed of not too long ago.
With their long-time backer, Nualphan Lamsam, watching from the bench, during stoppage time against a depleted Sweden side, Kanjana Sungngoen raced forward on the break and managed to beat Hedvig Lindahl at the near post. Thailand would go on to lose the game 5-1 but watching the emotion spill out from the team, the bench and their fans in the stadium will be a lasting memory from the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Carli Lloyd’s unforgettable hat-trick (2015)
When Canada 2015 rolled around, the USWNT were not considered favourites to win but they themselves were looking to avenge their defeat in the final against Japan four years earlier. After an unconvincing start, the USWNT and Carli Lloyd found an effective system that helped them through to the final and a rematch against Japan in Vancouver. With game-winning goals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, this was Carli Lloyd’s time to shine in a World Cup and shine she did.
The USWNT started quickly and Carli Lloyd was at the forefront, scoring two goals off of set pieces in the sixth and eighth minutes of the match but it was her third and the fourth goal of the match that still stands the test of time. The USWNT won the ball and midfield and Lloyd skipped past her marker before firing off a shot from midfield. Kaihori was caught scrambling to get back but ultimately failed and the ball bounced into the net to give the USWNT a 4-0 lead after 16 minutes. The game would end as a 5-2 win for the USWNT but that goal from Carli Lloyd was the highlight of the final and something many will remember for decades to come.
Germany vs France (2015)
Germany vs France never fails to get the adrenaline pumping. In 2015, the two sides put on a performance for the ages. With chances galore for both sides, it took until a deflected effort from Louisa Cadamuro in the 64th minute for the first goal of the game to be scored. The Germans were undetered and answered back with a goal of their own in the 84th minute thanks to a penalty by Célia Šašić.
What many will remember from this game was the glaring miss by Gaëtane Thiney in the second half of extra time. Thiney was picked out unmarked at the far post with only the goalkeeper to beat and proceeded to miss by a large margin when it would have been easier to score. The game went on to penalties and the Germans progressed to the semi-final while the French were left wondering what could have been if Thiney had been more clinical in front of goal.
Cameroon and the perception of women’s soccer (2019)
This was one moment were the ugly side of the game reared its head and produced a moment that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. England faced Cameroon in the Round of 16 and came away with a 3-0 win that was marred by controversy from start to finish, and after the match had ended. The first flashpoint occurred when the referee ruled that Annette Ngo Ndom had picked up a backpass from her defender and Steph Houghton then scored from the ensuing free kick. The Cameroonians became even more incensed when England’s second goal was given after a VAR check as they felt that Ellen White had been offside during the build up of that goal. This led to protests after the goal and during half-time as the Cameroonians refused to come out for several minutes.Cameroon’s hatred of VAR was further compounded in the 49th minute when their own goal was ruled out due to offside by VAR by the slimmest of margins. That led to another delay as Cameroon felt aggreived by all the decisions going against them (despite them being the correct decisions) and some unsavoury behaviour followed.
Much was said about this game afterwards by pundits across the world but many of them seemed tinged with a patronising tone e.g. England’s manager Phil Neville stating that young girls were watching the match and could be influenced by it. Others have written more nuanced pieces on this match but Neville’s comments were regurgitated by others in the aftermatch of this match. It not only showed a lack of eloquence by those hired to cover the women’s game but also a strange need to finger-wag any player or team which doesn’t subscribe to the “exemplary behaviour” female players should adhere to for all the young girls out there watching. The men’s game is not as closely monitored as the women’s game when it comes to their behaviour and more times than not, they are not held to some impossible standard lest their behaviour influence impressionable young boys. The women’s game has come on in leaps and bounds in a lot of areas but this match showed just how far everyone involved in the game still has to go especially when it comes to how they cover the women’s game.