History of the FIFA Women's World Cup

For the 1999 event the number of teams competing for the title swelled to 16 contesting a groups stage divided into four groups of four teams. The top two sides progressed to the quarter-finals, and featured the true powerhouses of the women's game: China, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Germany, USA, Brazil and Nigeria.

Playing for the first time in the World Cup finals China made the most of their appearance in the semi-finals, thrashing the title holders Norway 5-0 to reach the final. They were to be joined by host nation the USA, who had beaten Brazil 2-0 in the other semi-final.

The final proved to be a seminal moment in the history of the women's game and, along with tournament as a whole, made household names of many of the U.S. sides player, such as Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain.

Played at the Rose Bowl in California a record 90,185 fans, including former president Bill Clinton, packed into the stadium to witness the final in which the home side won 5-4 on penalties crowning USA the World Champions for the second time.

China ended as runners-up, a terrific achievement on their tournament debut. Their striker Wen Sun was awarded the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe award which she shared with Brazil's Sissi. Brazil beat Norway in the third-place play-off, while the FIFA Fair Play award was given to China.

A devastating outbreak of the SARS disease forced FIFA to switch the venue the 2003 Women's World Cup from China to the USA in what was a desperate attempt to keep the event on schedule. Luckily, everything came off without a hitch and World Cup debutantes France, Korea Republic and Argentina were introduced into the finals.

The same format as the previous tournament was adopted with eight out of the 16 teams progressing through to the quarter-finals. The first semi-final surprised the watching world as Germany pulled off a 3-0 win against strong favorites and reigning champions the USA, they progressed to the finals were they met Sweden who had clinched a 2-1 win over Canada.

The scene was set for an all European final which turned out to be fast, skilful and dramatic affair with a German golden-goal finish separating the two teams in the end.

Germany were crowned World Champions for the first time and their captain Birgit Prinz was the star of the tournament winning both the Golden Shoe and Golden Ball awards. Finalist Sweden were the bitter runners-up, USA came a disappointing third while emerging side Canada came fourth. The FIFA Fair Play award again went to China.

The young stars of 2003 are set to take centre stage in 2007 as the World Cup goes back to China, where 2008 Olympic qualifying places are also up for grabs.

For the first time in the history of the FIFA Women's World Cup all teams will be awarded monetary bonuses; those exiting the tournament at the first round stage will be awarded $200,000 with prize money increasing through to $1million for the champions.

Women's football is the fastest growing sport in the world with over 40 million ladies participating in the game across the globe. The 2007 tournament will seek to show the world what a huge sport it has become.


For Full Coverage of the FIFA Women's World Cup visit ESPN.com

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