Originally schedule for China from Sept. 23 to Oct. 11, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2003 was moved out of the country by FIFA on May 3 because of the threat of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. In awarding the games to the United States on May 26, FIFA chose the United States over Sweden, the only other country besides the USA to make a formal bid to host the tournament.
While women’s soccer has no doubt become more and more competitive, the group stage of USA 2003 went almost exactly according to script. Seven of the eight quarter-finalists from the 1999 event again advanced. Only Nigeria, who were the only side not to score a goal in the finals, did not make it through, stepping aside for Canada’s advancement. Of the seeded teams, only Norway failed to win their group, bowing to the strong early play of Brazil. The U.S. Women’s National Team lived up to their high expectations in opening the tournament with three authoritative wins in the tournament’s most difficult group (downing Sweden, Nigeria and upstart North Korea). Sweden lost their first match but recovered to eventually fight their way into the finals.
In the knockout stage, Canada provided the tournament’s biggest surprise with a well-earned 1-0 victory against China, sending the 1999 finalist home early. The U.S., Germany and Sweden, who knocked off first-round darlings Brazil 2-1, also advanced to the final four. In the semifinals, the Swedes finally ended Canada's dreams with a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 victory. In the other semifinal, Germany stunned the hosts, knocking the U.S. into the third-place match with two injury time goals en route to a 3-0 victory at PGE Park in Portland.
The U.S.-German match was widely hailed as one of the greatest in women’s soccer history, surpassed in 2003 only by Germany’s thrilling 2-1 sudden death victory against Sweden in the final. That triumph saw Nia Kuenzer head home in the eighth minute of extra time to send The Home Depot Center into a frenzy of German joy and Swedish tears.
The U.S. closed out an ultimately disappoint tournament with an emphatic 3-1 victory against border-rival Canada in the third-place game. The match was never in doubt, with the U.S. seeing goals from Kristine Lilly, Shannon Boxx and Tiffeny Milbrett keep their perfect top three record in Women’s World Cup play intact.
2003 FIFA Women's World Cup Awards
Birgit Prinz (Germany)
Victoria Svensson (Sweden)
Maren Meinert (Germany)
Birgit Prinz (Germany), 7 Goals
Maren Meinert (Germany), 4 Goals
Katia (Brazil), 4 Goals
Silke Rottenberg (Germany)
Fair Play Award
Most Entertaining Team
2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup All-Star Team
Shannon Boxx (USA), Joy Fawcett (USA), Charmaine Hooper (Canada), Maren Meinert (Germany), Sandra Minnert (Germany), Malin Mostrom (Sweden), Birgit Prinz (Germany), Silke Rottenberg (Germany), Victoria Svensson (Sweden), Liping Wang (China PR), Bettina Wiegmann (Germany);
Substitutes: Solveig Gulbrandsen (Norway), Mia Hamm (USA), Caroline Jonsson (Sweden), Marta (Brazil), Dagny Mellgren (Norway)
FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 Timeline
May 3: FIFA Executive Committee moves tournament out of China because of threat of SARS
May 6: U.S. Soccer makes official presentation to FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland
May 26: FIFA awards 2003 tournament to U.S. Soccer
June 16: Six venues and 32-game tournament schedule announced
July 1: U.S. Soccer begins a private venue series ticket sales for members of the U.S. Soccer family
July 17: U.S. Soccer and FIFA stage the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final Draw 2003 at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (site of the Oct. 12 final)
July 18: Final kick-off times are announced
July 19: Public venue series ticket sales begins
Aug. 14: Individual game tickets go on sale to the public for the first time
Sept. 20: Tournament begins with games in Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio
Oct. 12: Germany wins FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003 with 2-1 OT victory against Sweden at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif