The 1991 Women’s World Cup was the first international sanctioned tournament for women’s national teams. Held in China, the FIFA tournament set the stage for the continuous growth of women’s soccer.
Twelve nations participated in the competition, with the United States emerging as champions in a thrilling finale, defeating Norway 2–1 in extra time. After an inspired performance, American forward Michelle Akers was awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player.
The success of the 1991 World Cup tournament led to more countries taking an interest in the women’s game, with an increased number of nations competing in subsequent editions.
The First Women’s World Cup Tournament
The first FIFA-sanctioned 1991 Women’s World Cup kicked off in the People’s Republic of China to large and enthusiastic crowds. With twelve nations competing, it proved to be a successful and trailblazing tournament.
For the first time in FIFA history, officials appointed six female assistant referees and one female referee, Claudia de Vasconcelos of Brazil. She made women’s soccer history when she refereed in the 3rd-place match, becoming the first woman to officiate at this level in FIFA.
In Group A, the Norwegian team bounced back from a stunning 4-0 loss to host China in its opening match to reach the Women’s World Cup Final, beating Italy in overtime of the quarterfinals before crushing Sweden in the semifinals, 4-1. In one of China’s most disappointing results, they lost 1-0 to Sweden in the quarterfinals after drawing Denmark 2-2 in group play.
The United States Were Dominant
The United States dominated Group B of the 1991 Women’s World Cup. Having built a 3-0 lead over Sweden, the USA held on to win 3-2 to open group play. The knockout rounds were dominated by 5-0 victories over Brazil and 3-0 victories over Japan.
During the quarterfinals, the Americans dominated the Chinese Taipei, scoring five goals, and in the semifinals, Jenning scored a hat trick to beat Germany 5-2. In Group B, Sweden picked up two wins and defeated China in the quarterfinals but lost to Norway in the semifinals with a third-minute goal from Pia Sundhage.
Against Nigeria and Chinese Taipei, Germany won 4-0. Against Italy and Denmark, the German women’s team won 2-0. Germany beat Denmark in overtime during the quarterfinals. They lost to the Americans in the semifinals.
Chinese media termed the American forward line -The Triple-Edged Sword- for their dominating performance during the tournament. In the semifinals, Michelle Akers, Carin Jennings, and April Heinrichs scored all five goals for the U.S. (Jennings 3, Heinrichs 2) and both goals in the WC final victory over Norway (Akers).
In front of 65,000 people at Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium, the Americans won the first-ever 1991 Women’s World Cup after beating Norway 2-1.
It looked like the game would go into overtime. Akers pounced on an errant back pass from Norway’s Tina Svensson to goalie Reidun Seth with three minutes left.  Taking the ball past Seth, Akers shot a right-footed shot into the untended goal, giving the USA its first-ever world championship.
As the USWNT team arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, several U.S. Soccer Federation officials offered them a small welcome despite their World Cup victory.
1991 Women’s World Cup Awards
When it came to awarding the unique trophies, the 600 media representatives and football experts were of one mind: the best player and winner of the Golden Ball was Carin Jennings (USA), followed by Michelle Akers-Stahl (USA) and Linda Medalen (Norway). 
All three were forwards and scored 22 of the 99 goals in the 1991 Women’s World Cup tournament (22.2%). As a result, the list of goal-scorers had the same three names at the top, plus Heidi Mohr (Germany) in second place.
Michelle Akers-Stahl won this competition with ten goals, Mohr followed with 7, while Jennings and Medalen shared third place with six apiece.
The Norwegian player Gunn Nyborg was singled out for a unique award. The final against the USA was her 100th international match. In addition, it was the Norwegian team’s 100th too, and she had thus played in every one of her country’s matches.
FIFA President Joao Havelange, assisted by Pele, handed over the ball used in the final – worthy recognition for an exceptional career. The fair play trophy went to Germany.
The tournament was played in a highly sporting spirit, and only 32 yellow and one red card were shown – a “minus” record for a FIFA tournament. Not only were the games very sporting, but after matches were over, it was not unusual to see opposing team players sitting together, making international contact and friendships. 
This and other amicable behavior helped to make the 1991 Women’s World Cup atmosphere friendly, which players, managers, and team officials will all remember for its buoyant spirit.
Who Scored The Goals:
- Total goals scored in 1991 Women’s World Cup: 99 (av. 3.81 per match)
- Highest score: 8:0 (Sweden v. Japan)
- Forwards: 58 5- 8.6%
- Midfielders: 30 – 30.3%
- Defenders: 9 – 9.1%
- Own goals: 2 – 2.0%
1991 Women’s World Cup Venues
- Tianhe Stadium – Capacity: 60,000 (Final Played Here)
- Guangdong Stadium – Capacity: 25,000
- Ying Tung Stadium – Capacity: 15,000
- New Plaza Stadium – Capacity: 14,000
- Jiangmen Stadium – Capacity: 13,000
- Zhongshan Stadium – Capacity: 12,000
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https://www.fifamuseum.com/en/blog-stories/blog/37-words-that-changed-women-s-football-forever/ (main image)