The best 24 sides from around the world came together in Canada in June and July to contest the FIFA Women’s World Cup and all 24 treated the world to some spectacular football and fascinating matches. Before the tournament kicked off, much of the talk centred on two issues; would the artificial turf
being used in all the stadiums affect the matches, and secondly would expanding the tournament to 24 teams lessen the quality of the tournament? Thankfully
the answer to both was no.
The hosts Canada got things underway in Group A against China and although they weren’t at their best, got off to a winning start with a 1-0 win. As predicted
beforehand, group A was one of the closest in the tournament. Canada collected 5 points to top the group with China taking the runners up spot on goals
scored from the Netherlands who claimed one of the best 3rd place qualifier spots. New Zealand finished bottom and will look back on a missed penalty
against Canada when the score was 0-0 late on as a huge missed opportunity to make headway. Group B was in contrast the most one sided group of all
with both Germany and Norway being far too strong for Thailand and Ivory Coast. Germany won the group on goal difference from Norway largely helped
by a 10-0 win over the Ivory Coast in their opening game. The 1-1 draw between Germany and Norway was one of the better of the first round while Thailand’s
3-2 win over the Ivory Coast was one of the most entertaining.
Holders Japan won all three matches in group C as expected but what was not expected was Cameroon beating Switzerland to second place and becoming the
only African side to make the second round. The Swiss did however scrape through in 3rd place. Group D was another very competitive group which was
won by the USA with Australia upsetting the form-book to finish second. Sweden drew all 3 games to also qualify for the second round. Brazil led the
way in group E with a 100% record with South Korea in second. Spain finished bottom of the group, only getting one point and thus becoming one of the
biggest disappointments of the whole tournament. France won group F but only after being on the end of the biggest shock result of the tournament when
they lost to 2-0 to Columbia. England took second spot with Columbia in 3rd.
Most of the last 16 games were close as the action started to hot up. Canada beat Switzerland 1-0 to set up a last eight clash with England who came from
behind to stun Norway late on. Australia won a knockout game for the first time at a World Cup beating Brazil 1-0. This booked a date with Japan in
the quarter finals who had eased past the Netherlands 2-1. Over on the other side of the draw Germany thrashed Sweden 4-1 to set up a heavy weight
showdown with France who were far too good for South Korea dispatching them 3-0. Cameroon had won many friends in Canada with their style of play and
attitude, and many were sad to see them eliminated at the hands of China who won 1-0. The last quarter final saw the USA end Columbia’s progress; running
out 2-0 winners.
The heavyweight showdown between France and Germany lived up to the hype. France dominated the match and took the lead with a stunning strike from Luisa
Necib. However Germany drew level late in the game with a penalty from Sasic. The teams couldn’t be separated in extra time and became the only match
to be decided by penalties in the tournament. There had to be a fall guy and sadly for France Clair Lavogez saw her penalty saved as Germany prevailed
5-4 on penalties. There was no such worry for the USA who beat China 1-0 in a one sided contest. Japan won the battle of the Asian qualifiers by beating
Australia. Canada had failed to really hit top gear in the tournament and the last eight was to be the point when they left their own party as England
stunned them with 2 early goals in front of over 54,000 fans in Vancouver. Sinclair did pull one back for the hosts but it wasn’t enough.
Penalty taking has often been the strength of German football so when they had a penalty against the USA in the second half of their semi final game
there only seemed to be one outcome. However Sasic dragged it wide. Minutes later the USA were awarded a spot kick and this time Lloyd made no
mistake. The Americans added another later on to reach their 4th final in 7 attempts. The second semi final saw another two penalties with Japan
striking first through Miyama with Williams hitting back for the Lionesses. With the game heading to extra time Laura Bassett diverted a cross
into the back of her own net in heartbreaking fashion. England had been the revelation of the tournament and won many admirers for both their style
of play and the cruel way by which they were eliminated. England weren’t quite done though as they claimed the bronze medal by beating Germany
1-0 in extra time. This was the first time England had ever beaten Germany and underlined their status as one of the world’s best.
The final was a contrast of styles; the high energy style of the USA and the Japanese possession based approach. Japan however were totally over whelmed
as the US raced into a 4-0 lead after only 16 minutes, with Lloyd hitting a hat-trick for the US including a fantastic 50 yard strike. There was
simply no way back for Japan even though they got some credibility back in the second half, as the US ran out 5-2 winners and became the first
side to win the Women’s Word Cup 3 times.
The USA may have got their hands on the trophy but the real winner was the Women’s game itself and the fans all over the world who were treated to
a month of fantastic football.