The history of the Women’s World Cup takes us to its origins in 1991, to a tournament held in China that FIFA called the ‘FIFA World Championship’ because of concerns that resided only in their heads that titling it as a World Cup would somehow cheapen the men’s brand. 

The USA won that one, they being in possession of a plethora of outstanding talents who are now viewed as pioneers and stonewall legends.

Four years later Norway took the crown before the 2000s saw Germany dominate, both countries boasting a rich heritage in the women’s game.

Who can forget too, Japan’s surprise win in 2011, the Nadeshiko’s tiki-taka football delighting the watching world and made incredibly poignant by a recent earthquake and tsunami that had devastated the country. 

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These successes aside however, it is the USWNT who have held sway over the competition, winning it four times and finishing runner-up or third on the other four occasions. 

A behemoth of the sport, the Americans have done more than anyone in advancing women’s football, all the while bossing the World Cup with players that roll off the tongue. Michele Akers. Mia Hamm. Abby Wambach. Carli Lloyd.

As for moments, the Women’s World Cup is resplendent with them, some iconic, all unforgettable. 

Brazil’s 4-0 deconstruction of USWNT comes to mind in 2007, a Samba-tastic display inspired by the brilliant Marta, as too does the Americans’ revenge four years on, when Abby Wambach notched in the 122nd minute.

Carli Lloyd’s remarkable hat-trick in the 2015 World Cup final will always be a highlight, and the same applies to Megan Rapinoe Twitter-feuding with President Donald Trump in 2019 before striking a statuesque pose each time she scored. 

And the whole time, from it’s earliest incarnation to the present day, women’s football has mushroomed in both popularity and professionalism, first steadily, and latterly expanding at a satisfyingly accelerated rate.

In 2022, the sport broke new ground for attendances and global television viewing figures. Indeed, previous records were smashed. 

So much of this is due to the eight World Cups to date, all of them showcasing mesmeric matches, heightened moments, and ridiculously good players.

Yet, though 2019’s enthralling edition in France remains a watershed for the game – and that will forever be the case, viewed as it was by over one billion – an argument can be made that what awaits us this month in Australia and New Zealand could be the best, most exciting tournament of them all. 

The USWNT are priced up as favourites in the football betting, so nothing new there. But this time around a clutch of other nations are closing in, all legitimately believing they can snatch the crown, all superbly put together sides sprinkled with great players.

These include France, Germany and Spain, the latter heavily populated by Barcelona Femeni’s all-conquering creation, while chief among America’s biggest threats is England, the reigning Euro champions.

Expect the UK to once again be gripped by World Cup fever in the coming weeks. 

Moreover, though USWNT have the next generation of superstars coming through, not least striker Sophia Smith, the Portland Thorns’ MVP last year, and the Ballon d’Or finalist Trinity Rodman, there are some who claim a World Cup ‘threepeat’ will be beyond them with the standard around them rising so high. 

Granted, America won the SheBelieves Cup in February but permanent also are the three consecutive losses they suffered last winter. It should noted too that USWNT are stationed in a tough group, with a dangerous Netherlands capable of grabbing the top spot.

Elsewhere, the tournament is awash with elite fare, with Chelsea’s megastar Sam Kerr looking to keep the host nation’s interests going to the later stages, while Spain will be bolstered by the exalted talents of Aitana Bonmati in midfield.

Regarding La Roja, all eyes will be on the two-time Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Alexia Putellas but it’s Bonmati who makes them tick. She offers up masterclasses on a game by game basis. 

It additionally intrigues that Norway’s Ada Hegerberg – herself a former Ballon d’Or winner - is set to star, after missing 2019 in protest at her nation’s federation and it’s disrespect of the women’s game.

She has previously stated that playing for the Grasshoppers left her ‘mentally broken’.

But if these shining lights can be relied on to grab the headlines Down Under, this is a tournament that mostly represents the handing over of the baton, as bona fide legends grace the biggest stage most likely for the last time.

This is an apt image given that women’s football is once again transitioning, expanding its reach further still and finding unchartered levels of popularity.

USWNT’s consistently prolific Alex Morgan, one of the highest paid female footballers, is rightly the outright favourite in the betting to finish as the competition’s top goal-scorer but at 34 how many more goals can we anticipate before the next-big-things claim her starting spot?

Germany’s Alexandra Popp meanwhile is 32, the same age as England’s Lucy Bronze who cannot be expected to cover whole acres down the right flank forever.

For these household names, the 2023 World Cup may be their international swansong and they’ll depart as the tournament ventures into the stratosphere, a cornerstone of world sport. 

What will help it on its way is if this year is the greatest tournament so far for interest, drama and quality. Encouragingly, it has every criteria to be precisely that.


 

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.