This time four years ago, the world was readying itself for the seventh edition of the Women’s World Cup, with more than one controversy leading in.
For the first time in its history, a team was banned from competition at the Women’s World Cup, North Korea the country in question. An ever-present since 1995, the several members of the team failed a doping test in 2011 and FIFA were swift with their punishment.
The bigger question mark surrounded – and still surrounds – FIFA’s use of artificial or plastic pitches in Canada, with some players even going as far as to filing a lawsuit against the federation. As well as the usual awkward bounces throughout the tournament, it was widely reported that the crumb would heat to excruciating temperatures, the turf or boot level temperature reaching 66°C during one match. There was too the odd incident of Karen Bardsley getting a crumb or two stuck in her eye during England’s quarter-final match against the hosts.
New format, new teams
2015 also marked the first year of an expanded tournament with 52 matches played instead of 32 as the four highest placed third-place group finishers progressed to the knock-outs that, for the first time, started at the round of 16. The pool one that grew to keep up with the expansion, as the 16 teams from the years before grew to 24, with eight teams qualifying for their first ever World Cup.
The intake was wider but the quality didn’t always have the time to trickle through each confederation and there was a handful or brutal scorelines (although that wasn’t unique to 2015). However, even the teams on the low end of the rankings showed up as best they could and generally gave a strong account of themselves. With three debutantes; Cameroon, Netherlands and Switzerland even making it to the knock-outs, Cameroon memorably having finished second in their group.
The meaty end of the month
None of the first-timers could make it through the first round of knock outs and the last eight had a more familiar complexion with each and every team have reached the quarter finals at least once before in their history. Eight became four; England made their own history, winning a knock-out match at the World Cup for the first time as Australia’s long wait for a semi-final appearance continued.
The USA knocked out Germany as Japan memorably found a way past England at the death, leaving the reining champions to face the team they beat in the final in 2011.
England went off to Edmonton and, finally, beat Germany to claim bronze and send Silvia Neid’s team home empty-handed for the second World Cup running. The following day, 500 miles south-west, Carli Lloyd wrote herself into the history books with a 13-minute hat trick against a woefully unprepared Japan. The final scoreline 5-2 as the USA became the first team in Women’s World Cup history to win the tournament three times, the 30-day tournament was over with 146 goals scored along the way.
The 2015 World Cup had a lasting legacy in several countries across the planet and although women’s football didn’t suddenly snowball into a global phenomenon it set off a chain reaction for many. With France 2019 promising to be bigger, better and much, much more talked about and covered, it’s clear the women’s game is stepping further and further into the spotlight.
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