The first-ever recording of women playing modern football was during the 19th century in the United Kingdom. Although football was considered a sport for men in those early days, ladies were also keen on participating, so a few games were organized in Scotland and England in the 1890s.
However, women’s football really kicked off in the 1970s when it became professional and more organized. Ever since those times, several nations have established themselves as being the best on the planet, and in this article, we are going to take a look at the top five.
Sweden is one of the most decorated European nations in women’s football. They won the first UEFA Euro Women’s Championship in 1984 but failed to win a gold medal ever since, although they came close to winning several more times.
Sweden was a runner-up on three more occasions in the Euro, when they won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and finished second at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They took third place at the World Cup three more times, including the 2019 tournament in France.
The highest place for Sweden at the FIFA Rankings was third in June 2007.
Japan didn’t have much success in the 20th century, but they have lately become a true powerhouse in women’s football.
Japan’s biggest success came in 2011 when they won the FIFA Women’s World Cup by beating the United States on penalties in the final. They played in the final against the same opponent four years later, but this time the Americans were better and won 5–2.
As far as the Olympics go, Japan was in the fight for the medals twice. They lost a bronze medal match against Germany in 2008, while the USA beat them for gold in 2012. Although Japan doesn’t face too much competition in the Asian Cup, it is still noteworthy that they won the last two editions of the tournament. Japan was third at the FIFA rankings in 2011.
Norway is one of only three nations in women’s football that has won gold medals on all three major competitions – continental championship, Olympic Games, and the FIFA World Cup.
The first title came in 1984 when Norway hosted and won the Euro. They finished second behind Germany in the next two editions before winning against in 1991. Norway reached the top 4 five more times, never winning the title.
At the World Cup scene, the Norwegian ladies made their biggest success in 1995, beating Germany 2–0 in the final. Two Olympic medals came in 1996 (bronze), and 2000 (gold), but Norway never managed to reach the semifinals since. They were second at the FIFA rankings in July 2003.
Historically speaking, Germany is the second-best nation in women’s football after the United States. Their national team has won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2003 and 2007, while they finished second in 1995.
Germany won their first and only gold medal at the Olympics in 2016, while also winning three consecutive bronze medals from 2000 to 2008.
From 1989 to 2013, the German women failed to win only one European championship, and are the most dominant nation at that tournament with eight titles. On several occasions, Germany was placed first in the FIFA rankings.
The United States is undoubtedly the best country in women’s football. They won four World Cups (1991, 1995, 2015, and 2019), four gold medals at the Olympics (1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012), and eight out of nine CONCACAF championships in which they participated (1991, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2014, and 2018).
USA is constantly first in the FIFA rankings, and the lowest they have ever been is the second place.