My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup now less than a month away, the history of how this tournament has expanded since the inaugural version in 1991 is symptomatic of how women’s football has grown worldwide.
There had been a ‘warm-up’ tournament in 1988 known as the FIFA Women’s Invitation Tournament where twelve countries contested the competition held in China. It was a success, and, therefore, the Women’s World Cup was formed – although it was sponsored by Mars due to FIFA worried about using the World Cup brand. This meant it was officially called as ‘FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M Cup.’
48 teams across six confederations participated in the qualification campaign, with twelve sides qualifying (hosts China did not qualify automatically). The games were played for 80 minutes and group games were played every other day, which countries like Germany felt restricted their play. But generally the fourteen-day tournament was seen as a huge success and was a catalyst to women’s football being included in the Olympics. The United States beat Norway 2-1 in the final.
The 1995 tournament saw hosts Sweden qualify automatically, but the structure remained the same. Norway beat Germany in the final 2-0. The Mars branding had also been dropped.
USA hosted the 1999 tournament which was expanded to sixteen countries, the extra four coming from Africa, Europe, Asia and North America, Central America & Caribbean confederations. The days in between group games was increased to two, as the event expanded to 22 days. The tournament has an average attendance per match of 37,319 (which was only 6,000 down compared to the 1998 Men’s World Cup in France) and 90,185 people watched USA defeat China in the final – the world record attendance in women’s football.
The 2003 tournament was to be held in China, but due to the SARS outbreak, it was decided to hold it in the USA, due to five months of preparation a host would have. There was also the ulterior motive that this would stop the American Women’s Professional League from being shut down. China retained their place and were named as the hosts of the 2007 tournament. Germany lifted the trophy after beating Sweden on the golden goal rule.
The 2007 World Cup is notably for three firsts. In the tournament’s first match, Germany thrashed Argentina 11-0 – the biggest victory and highest scoring game in World Cup history. When the Germans beat Brazil 2-0 in the final, they also became the first country to defend their title. But incredibly, they went through the whole tournament without conceding a single goal.
Germany hosted the World Cup for the first time in 2011, but they lost their crown after being knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Japan. North Korea was fined US$ 400,000 due to five of their players failing drug tests. The fine equated to the prize money they received during the tournament, and they were also banned from the 2015 World Cup. North Korea had participated in every World Cup since 1995 and are currently ranked 8th in the world.
The 2015 World Cup has been expanded to 24 teams, meaning the tournament will now be played over a month. 134 countries tried to qualify which means that in just 24 years, the tournament has expanded to an extra 86 countries around the world.
Scotland’s World Cup History
Scotland has yet to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, but until the qualification campaign for 2011, things were made harder by UEFA’s system. Before, the European countries were split into two groups with the top group able to qualify for the World Cup, with the second group fighting for promotion to the top tier. Qualification for the 1991 and 1995 World Cups had been done through the UEFA European Championships.
In the qualification campaign for the 1999 World Cup, Scotland finished top of their Class B group but failed to win promotion due to losing the play-off match against Spain. However, during the 2003 qualification they won their Class B group – meaning for the first time they had a chance to qualify for a World Cup.
They finished third in their group, behind Germany and Russia – picking up two wins and two draws against Switzerland and Republic of Ireland. Only the group winners qualified for the 2007 World Cup – in this group Germany.
When the draw for the 2011 Qualification Groups were made, Scotland was placed in Pot B along countries like Spain, Finland and the Netherlands. They were placed in Group 3 with Denmark, Greece, Bulgaria and Georgia and finished just one point behind group winners Denmark. If they had drawn or beaten Denmark to finish top, they would have still faced a play-off round to qualify.
For the 2015 World Cup, Scotland were still second seeds, but their route was made slightly easier due to the group winners automatically qualifying, whilst the four best runners-up entered the play-offs. Scotland finished second in Group 4, behind the winners Sweden who only conceded one goal – against Scotland. This though saw Scotland reach the play-off semi-final.
The play-offs were seeded on UEFA Coefficient which meant Scotland were unseeded and faced the Netherlands. Scotland lost the home leg 2-1 and lost the away leg 2-0. The Netherlands went on to beat Italy in the play-off final to take the final qualification spot.