By Rachael Funk
In a history-making final, the United States women’s national soccer team triumphed in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship at the Stade de Lyon in France. If you weren't among the tens of thousands of Americans to visit France during the championship, here’s a closer look at where you can travel to find a little Women's World Cup inspiration of your own.
For the first time ever, France won the bid to host the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The final victory was won at Stade de Lyon in the commune of Décines-Charpieu, but the matches were held in eight additional locations across the country. Stadiums in places like Paris, Nice, and Reims were selected as venues for the competition, putting each location in the spotlight as the Women’s World Cup progressed.
I don’t think anyone who has ever spoken out or stood up or had a brave moment has regretted it. It’s empowering and confidence-building and inspiring. Not only to other people, but to yourself. - Megan Rapinoe, midfielder/winger
With a resounding battle cry of “One Nation, One Team,” the USWNT’s impact reaches beyond the soccer field. Their involvement in sports, culture, and politics made the team champions for equality, empowerment, and excellence. If you're unsure of exactly how effective their activism has been, just ask the crowd chanting “Equal pay!” as the team accepted their trophy.
Lead to victory by Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle, the United States earned their fourth title and smashed all kinds of records along the way including achieving the largest margin of victory in a single match and most goals in a FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament (click here to check out a comprehensive list of every record the USWNT decimated during the tournament).
I had a dream that didn’t exist. A lot of people were laughing at me when I was young and I said I wanted to be a professional footballer. They said it was only for boys...When I got an invitation to play for the national team under-15 side I felt this is really what I love. People used to laugh at me, but now I can laugh at them. - Lieke Martens, forward
A mighty team showcasing incredible talent, the Netherlands would have been the second nation to be both World and European Champions had they taken the win. The team hit their stride after Sarina Wiegman was appointed head coach at the beginning of 2017. Boasting breakout star players such as Lieke Martens, it’s no wonder the Dutch are known as one of the best attacking teams in the world.
I’ve gained a lot of different experiences during these years. I’ve traveled. I’ve met with a lot of different people, different backgrounds and cultures. Different goals, different teams, different methods, different places, different friends, coaches and staff members. Teammates. The stories are many, and there are still a few to be experienced before they can be told. -Hedvig Lindahl, goalkeeper
After defeating England 2-1, Sweden’s national team capped their run with a bronze medal, making it their fourth top-three finish. Considered underdogs at the start of the tournament thanks to their ranking of ninth in the world, Sweden fought their way to a well-deserved spot at the podium. The team made headlines early in 2017 by swapping the names from the back of their jerseys in favor of motivational tweets like “never look down on someone unless you’re helping her up” as they competed in the Algarve Cup. Now, they are back in the spotlight to celebrate their inspiring finish in the Women’s World Cup.
...As female athletes, we need to be able to express ourselves. Sometimes, that’s through talking and telling your story. But I want to target the boys, as well, because ultimately it’s the society, everyone, that you try to change. I think it’s important women are empowered to do anything. - Lucy Bronze, Defender
Narrowly beaten by Sweden in the third-place play-off, the Lionesses have laid the groundwork for an inspiring legacy. With the eyes of the world upon them, the team demonstrated admirable sportsmanship, both in victory and defeat. Now, the Lionesses valiance on the field is changing how the UK views women’s soccer.Though the team has never yet won a major women’s tournament, a record 7.6 million fans tuned in for their 3 - 0 quarter-final win against Norway. As the players begin to break through a male-dominated sport, their poise under pressure and determination continues to capture the attention of the nation.
An important value is the unity of intent, fundamental in a group, then certainly character, determination and willingness to improve. - Manuela Giugliano, midfielder
After a 20-year absence, Italy leapt back into the fight for the Women’s World Cup with a stunning 7-win streak in their qualification run. Ever a team for a thrilling game, Italy earned a last-minute victory over Australia when Barbara Bonnansea scored her second goal of the game with a spectacular header five minutes into second-half injury time. The team reached the quarter-finals before losing a nearly even match with the Dutch.
It feels like doors are opening for other women to realize their dreams and not only in football. There are things that can be achieved with hard work and effort and I think we can help many women, to fulfill their dreams. - Christiane Endler, goalkeeper
Making a historic Women’s World Cup debut at the senior level, Chile took the field after an uphill battle against underfunding and a lack of support from their home country. Refusing to accept the neglect of women’s football in the country, former national team player Iona Rothfeld started a grassroots organization called the National Association of Women’s Soccer Players (ANJUFF) to champion the overlooked women’s division. After painstaking work and advocacy, conditions for the team improved and they made their way to the 2019 Women’s World Cup where, despite their persistence, the team fell short of advancing to the knockout stage by a single goal.
It’s wanting it more. It’s training more. It’s taking care of yourself more. It’s being ready to play 90 plus 30 minutes. This is what I ask of the girls: there’s not going to be a Formiga forever. There’s not going to be a Marta forever. There’s not going to be a Cristiane. The women’s game depends on you to survive. So think about that. Value it more. Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end. - Marta, midfielder
An actual dream team packed with superstars, Brazil is one of the few competitors to qualify for every Women’s World Cup. Despite hostile leadership who have remarked that the players are “particularly difficult to calm down in the locker room,” a paycheck of roughly $500 per month, and enduring public evaluation of their success based on their physical beauty, any question of Brazil’s worthiness as a competitor in the sport is obliterated the moment they take the field.
Preceded by a 100-year legacy of organized soccer, Brazil has powered through roadblocks such as Decree Law 3199 which was passed in 1941 to eliminate women’s participation in “violent” sports (a ban which was not lifted until 1981), difficulty accessing positions and coaches licenses, and fighting tooth and nail to gain support, all to chase their passion onto the soccer field.
Despite their adversity, the team fiercely perseveres. Legends such as Débora Cristiane de Oliveira, Bárbara Micheline do Monte Barbosa, and Miraildes Maciel Mota (known as “Formiga”) have made Brazil the most successful women’s national team in South America. After a heart-wrenching loss to France, six-time FIFA player of the year and arguably the greatest soccer player in history, Marta Vieira da Silva, closed out her final game with an emotional and defiant plea to the future stars of Brazil’s national team: carry on the work of the players who fought so hard to earn their place as icons in the sport they love.