The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – History Makers and Record-Breakers!

Emily Clarke

This year we saw the biggest and best FIFA Women’s World Cup since it’s ‘official’ iteration in 1991.

Unlike the Men’s World Cup - which has been running since 1930 - the Women’s has only been going officially since the early nineties when the inaugural tournament, then called the FIFA Women's World Championship, was held in China. The first iteration of a Women’s World Cup actually dates back to 1970 when Italy hosted a tournament featuring teams from seven countries: Austria, Denmark, England, West Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Switzerland. The matches were played in front of crowds of up to 30,000; with the final between Denmark and Mexico drawing 110,000 spectators. Denmark won the match, making them the first ‘unofficial’ Women’s World Champions. Despite records showing that women had played organised football matches since the late 18th century and the success of World Cup’s of the 70’s, it wasn’t until 1988 that FIFA finally invested in the women’s game with an ‘Invitation Tournament’; created to see if a worldwide tournament with women players was feasible. It was, (of course!) and the first official Women’s World Cup was set for 1991. It has continued every four years since then and although it’s still not as celebrated as the Men’s World Cup, this year felt different than before. This year’s tournament, which kicked off on 20 July, was hosted by Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa. It was a month filled with exciting football, delightful goals and tournament firsts.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – History Makers and Record-Breakers!
Programme and ticket from the World Cup in Mexico, 1970. (Photo: Emily Clarke, FIFA Museum, Zurich)

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The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – History Makers and Record-Breakers!
Shirt worn by Marta in Brazil’s Round of 16 Match against Australia in 2019. (Photo: Emily Clarke, FIFA Museum, Zurich)

And with that, came lots of record-breaking and history-making!

Co-hosts New Zealand (Aotearoa) won the opening game of the tournament in a shock victory against Norway, marking the country’s first ever victory in a women’s or men’s World Cup. Morrocco’s Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab while competing at a senior-level Women’s World Cup when the North African team played South Korea in the Group Stages. Jamaica became the first Caribbean team to win a Women’s World Cup game. The affectionately named ‘Reggae Girlz’ beat Panama 1-0 after a rocky start to the tournament which saw them having to crowdfund to afford travel to Australia to participate. The team has seen an incredible rise back to the game since being disbanded in 2008 after the Jamaican Football Federation stopped funding the women’s programme. Backed by ambassador Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley, the team raised funds to restart the senior team in 2014 and went on to shine at the last two World Cup’s. Marta – often regarded as the best female footballer of all time – played in her last World Cup. The Brazilian magician has played in six World Cup tournaments and despite not scoring this time around, she continues to hold the all-time scoring record (men or women) for World Cup goals with a phenomenal 17. Three African Teams made the knockout stages. Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa all made it out of their groups, beating teams that were expected to go further than them. This fantastic feat saw African nations being put in the sport spotlight like never before. This year saw several countries making their Women’s World Cup debuts. Haiti, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia all featured for the first time. First time qualifying meant first major tournament goals for these countries. Three standouts were Marta Cox for Panama, Sarina Bolden for the Philippines and Katie McCabe for Republic of Ireland. Aged just 16 years and 26 days, South Korea’s Casey Phair became the youngest person to ever play in the Women’s World Cup. She broke the record held by Nigeria’s Ifeanyi Chiejine who was 16 years and 34 days old when she played in the 1999 Cup. Whilst Phair may have been the youngest woman to play, Colombia’s Linda Caicedo became the first teenager to score at this year’s tournament aged eighteen. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer aged 15, Caicedo was a stand-out player this year as she helped her country knock former champions Germany out of the tournament in the group stages.
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England’s attacking midfielder Ella Toone made history as the first player (men or women) to score in a major tournament quarter-final, semi-final and final (2022 Euros/World Cup) 164 goals were scored at the tournament – surpassing the previous high of 146 goals scored at the last two tournaments in Canada (2015) and France (2019). Almost 2 million tickets were sold for this World Cup; double that sold in France four years ago. 75,784 fans flocked to Stadium Australia in Sydney to watch Australia’s opening game against Republic of Ireland - making it the highest attended Women’s World Cup game in 24 years. Chloe Kelly’s winning penalty kick against Nigeria measured 110.79km/hour making it the fastest goal scored at the tournament. It was also faster than any goal scored in the English Premier League during the 2022/23 season. The semi-final game between Australia and England was the most watched broadcast in Australian history, averaging 7.13 million viewers, with a total of 11.15 million watching at its peak. England’s Lionesses, led by captain Millie Bright, became the first England team, men or women, to reach a World Cup Final since 1966. The women saw some nail-biting games (see the penalty shoot-out against Nigeria and the tense 2-1 semi-final against Australia) but fought through to reach the final game against Spain. 14.7 million viewers tuned in across the BBC and ITV and despite not winning, being crowned the second-best team in the world is pretty incredible. This talented group of women has no doubt changed women’s football in England forever and should be very proud of all they achieved! The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and it’s such a joy seeing women’s football finally moving towards getting the credit, viewership and support it deserves. But, as always, we need more. More investment in women’s sport, women’s healthcare, women’s careers, women’s safety, women’s rights. More investment in women; period. That way, we will see more of what we saw during this World Cup, more women making history.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – History Makers and Record-Breakers!
The Women’s World Cup (Photo: Emily Clarke, FIFA Museum, Zurich)
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – History Makers and Record-Breakers!

Emily Clarke

Emily is self-confessed museum enthusiast, history hunter and travel lover. She is currently an arts fundraiser who has previously worked for The British Museum, Ipswich + Colchester Museums Service and the online Girl Museum. In 2018 she embarked on her first ‘museum tour’; visiting museums and heritage sites in 10 countries across Europe. She has since visited 250+ sites in the UK, Europe, Australia and South America and is excited to continue adding to the list!
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