The 2023 Women’s World Cup was by far the most successful and entertaining edition of the competition to date.
According to the BBC, nearly 2 million fans attended the contest in Australia and New Zealand – an increase of more than 600,000 from the previous record.
This year’s competition was also arguably the most impressive in terms of the football played. As well as fantastic goals scored and technical brilliance on display, many nations also smashed their personal records.
So, relive six of the best moments from the tournament this year.
1. New Zealand finally win a World Cup match
Before the 2023 competition, co-hosts New Zealand had never actually won a World Cup match.
The Kiwis had appeared at five of the previous eight World Cups – they failed to qualify between 1995 and 2003 – without registering any wins at all. Instead, they had a somewhat bleak record of W0, D3, and L12.
Yet, this unfortunate statistic was beaten within the first 90 minutes of the entire 2023 contest. New Zealand hosted Norway at Eden Park, beating the visitors 1-0 in the opening match of the tournament.
Hannah Wilkinson put the co-hosts ahead three minutes after halftime as she tucked away Jacqui Hand’s cross.
The Kiwis also had an opportunity to finish the evening in Auckland in style, as they were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute, but Ria Percival’s spot kick crashed into the crossbar.
Still, it ultimately didn’t matter to the result, and the home fans were able to celebrate a historic victory.
2. Jamaica gain points off France and Brazil to qualify from the group stage
New Zealand’s World Cup record left much to be desired ahead of the tournament, yet it pales in comparison next to Jamaica’s.
This was only the second time the Reggae Girlz were appearing at a World Cup, having qualified for the first time in 2019. In that ill-fated tournament, they lost all three of their group stage matches, conceding 12 goals and scoring just once.
Yet this year, the competition’s underdogs were hugely impressive. A hard-earned point from France set the tone for their campaign, before beating Panama and drawing with Brazil to reach the round of 16 without even conceding a goal.
In the end, they were sent home after losing 1-0 to Colombia in the knockout stage. But even so, Jamaica’s inspiring performances deserve great credit.
3. Reigning champions USA are knocked out by millimetres
Arguably the biggest shock of the entire competition this year came when Sweden knocked out the USA on penalties at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
As the winners of the previous tournament in 2019, four-time world champions the USA were certainly one of the favourites coming into this year’s competition.
But, after finishing second to the Netherlands in the group stage, the Stars and Stripes simply could not find a way past Sweden in the round of 16.
Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic played excellently across 120 minutes as she faced 22 shots from the USA, 11 of which came on target.
The game ended with a nerve-wracking penalty shootout that Sweden won 5-4, and the final penalty came with an extra dose of tension, too.
Having first parried the ball, USA keeper Alyssa Naeher thought she had saved Lina Hurtig’s spot kick at the second attempt when she spun to claw the ball off the line.
Ultimately, the goal-line technology confirmed that the ball had crossed the line by just a couple of millimetres, and the reigning champions found themselves knocked out.
4. Old rivals England and Australia meet in a fiery semi-final
It’s fair to say that when it comes to sport, England and Australia don’t exactly see eye to eye. So, any match between the two nations was always going to be hotly contested, as the World Cup semi-final certainly proved to be.
England took a first-half lead when Ella Toone sent a brilliant drive across the face of goal and into the far corner.
But Australia’s talismanic striker, Sam Kerr, brought the Matildas level with a 25-yard stunner around the hour mark.
Yet as Sarina Wiegman’s team have done so often before, the Lionesses battled on, and retook the lead in rather fortuitous circumstances when Lauren Hemp was the beneficiary of a defensive mix-up.
England then sealed the win when Alessia Russo shot across goal five minutes from time.
It was a scintillating affair, and a worthy addition to the long tapestry of England v Australia sporting history.
5. Mary Earps keeps England in the final with her penalty save
Spain might have ultimately managed to edge England in the thrilling conclusion to the World Cup this year, but the “player of the match” award arguably should still go to an Englishwoman – goalkeeper Mary Earps.
Manchester United’s number one made a string of saves throughout the 90 minutes, as Spain peppered the English goal in hope of adding another goal after Olga Carmona gave La Roja the lead.
The match looked to be almost decided when Keira Walsh was penalised for a handball and a penalty kick awarded to Spain with 20 minutes to go.
Jennifer Hermoso stepped up to take responsibility from 12 yards, only to be denied by Earps’s perfectly anticipated save to her lefthand side.
6. Spain take home their first Women’s World Cup trophy
In a World Cup of many firsts, there is perhaps no moment more impressive than Spain taking home their first Women’s World Cup trophy.
Despite Mary Earps’s heroics, La Roja’s attacking flair and controlled passing saw them beat the Lionesses 1-0 at Stadium Australia in the World Cup final.
Their win makes them part of an illustrious club alongside just four other nations that have won a Women’s World Cup, after the USA, Norway, Germany, and Japan.
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