Since its first official edition in 1991, the FIFA Women’s World Cup has had few conquerors. Prior to the 2023 edition, just eight different countries had reached the final of a World Cup tournament, with the titles shared by just four nations. The 2023 final, however, pit two final first-timers against one another as Spain beat England in Sydney, Australia, becoming only the fifth nation to win the competition.
Here, we look back over all the winners of the Women’s World Cup.
United States: (Four Wins: 1991, 1999, 2015, 2019)
The record champions. Having won four of the Women’s World Cup tournaments played so far, and having only finished outside the top three for the first time in 2023, they have dominated women’s football on a national level for the majority of its World Cup history.
In the inaugural tournament in 1991 in China, they won every single game on the way to success, with tournament top scorer Michelle Akers leading the way with 10 goals, including a brace in the 2-1 final win over Norway. After losing in the semi-final to eventual winners Norway in the following tournament in 1995, the USWNT reasserted their dominance four years later with a penalty-shootout victory over neighbours Canada in the 1999 WWC final on home soil.
After a winless spell of three tournaments across 2003, 2007 and 2011 – an era mainly dominated by Germany – the United States won their third title in Canada in 2015, allowing a new generation of stars to emerge and shine – Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe among them. That triumph was followed up by another win in 2019, where they set a new record for the number of goals scored in a single tournament by a nation (26). Thirteen of those goals came in an astonishing 13-0 win over Thailand, which remains the biggest win in Women’s World Cup history.
Overall, USA have played the most games (54) and picked up the most wins (41) in WWC history, but the side led by Vlatko Andonovski disappointed in 2023 and failed to add to their World Cup tournament wins, crashing out to Sweden on penalties in the round of 16.
Germany: (Two Wins: 2003, 2007)
Germany’s 2007 title made them the most successful European national side in women’s football. We didn’t need World Cup wins to remind us of that, though. The Germans have won eight European Championship titles in women’s international football, including a dominant spell between 1995 and 2013 when they secured six consecutive crowns.
Of their first three participations in the Women’s World Cup, 1995 saw them come closest to victory, but they lost in the final to Norway. It wasn’t until 2003 that they finally won their first title in the competition, led by the fantastic Birgit Prinz, who chipped in with seven goals from midfield. In that tournament, they defeated the USA 3-0 in the semi-final in front of their own fans before Nia Künzer’s golden goal sealed a 2-1 win over Sweden in the final.
They secured back-to-back World Cup titles with victory in China in 2007, impressively going all the way without conceding a single goal in their six matches at the tournament – the only side ever to do this at a Women’s World Cup. This victory made Germany the first nation to win consecutive WWC titles.
Quarter-final exits in 2011 and 2019 sandwiched a fourth-place finish in 2015, but Germany fared even worse in 2023, when they crashed out in the group stage.
Norway: (One Win: 1995)
Coach Hege Riise will have fond memories of their 1995 success, having been a player in the side that provided Norway with their only World Cup crown to date across both men’s and women’s football.
They arrived at the tournament as one of the favourites after losing in the final in the first edition in 1991, but also having lost at the semi-final stage of the European Championships earlier in the year.
Group stage success over England, Canada and Nigeria was followed by a 3-1 win over Denmark in the quarter-final – a match that saw them concede a goal for the only time in the tournament. Their semi-final win over the United States – who beat them in the 1991 final – and their final victory over Germany – who stopped them from winning successive European Championships in 1989 and 1991 – not only handed Norway the World Cup title, but also gave them a satisfying sense of revenge.
Riise ended the tournament as second top scorer with five goals – only teammate Ann Kristin Aarønes was able to outscore her in Sweden that year.
Japan: (One Win: 2011)
Japan are arguably the most surprising winners of a Women’s World Cup thanks to their success in the 2011 finals. That tournament saw them score just 12 goals – the fewest by a winner of any World Cup edition.
Seen as one of the most progressive football nations in women’s football at the time, much of their success came via the duo of Homare Sawa (top scorer in the tournament with five goals) and Aya Miyama (most assists in the 2011 finals with four).
Having never won an Asian Cup title and only having reached the knockout stages of the World Cup on one occasion (quarter-finals in 1995) heading into the tournament, not much was expected of Japan, and they quietly progressed from the group stage in second place behind England.
Their opponents in the quarter-finals were Germany, who had previously dispatched of the Japanese without any issues. Japan had met them three times in the competition before then and lost without failing to score a single goal.
A shock 1-0 win over the Germans after extra-time set up a semi-final tie against Sweden, who they went on to defeat 3-1, and so progressed to the final where they faced the mighty USWNT.
Despite falling behind twice in the final, Japan fought their way to a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw, where they went on to defeat the US 3-1. In doing so they became the first Asian nation to win a World Cup across both men’s and women’s tournaments.
Japan came close to winning a second World Cup title in 2015, but the USA got their revenge by beating them 5-2 in the final.
Spain: (One Win: 2023)
Few had tipped Spain heading into the 2023 tournament. Many of the players had previously made themselves unavailable for selection under manager Jorge Vilda just a year ago, but were able to put those disagreements to one side to win the Women’s World Cup in the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
It wasn’t plain sailing for them, though, as they were thrashed 4-0 by Japan in the group stage, despite Japan having just 22.9% of possession, the lowest share of possession for a winning side at a WWC on record (since 2011).
It meant Spain went on to become only the second side to be crowned champions of the Women’s World Cup despite having lost a group stage game during that tournament, coincidentally after Japan did so in 2011.
Spain had only ever won one match at the tournament prior to 2023, which made their run all the way to the final all the more impressive. They thrashed Switzerland 5-1 in the last 16, before a much more nervy 2-1 victory after extra time in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands.
Another dramatic win in the semi-finals was to follow, going ahead in the last 10 minutes against Sweden, before being pegged back level just before the end of normal time, only for Olga Carmona to fire the winner just a minute later.
Carmona would also be decisive in the final, scoring the winner in the 1-0 success against reigning European champions England.