The tale of the magical goal scorer and the unbeatable goalkeeper

© Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images
© Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images

16 years ago, the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup ™ took place in China. It would become the first Women’s World Cup to see a champion successfully defend their title. But it was also the stage for a magical Brazilian goal scorer and an unbeatable German goalkeeper.

China was automatically chosen to host the fifth edition of the tournament, as they had originally been picked to hold the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but had to pull out shortly before kick-off due to a SARS outbreak in the country. Matches were spread across five stadiums in the cities of Tianjin, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Shanghai, which saw sixteen teams battle against one another for the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy. For the first and only time in the tournament’s history, there was not a single debutant amongst the competing countries, with all teams coming into the tournament with at least one World Cup appearance already under their belt.

Defending champions Germany set the tone for their campaign in the opening match, with an astonishing 11-0 defeat of Argentina, a record that would stand until 2019, when the USA beat Thailand 13-0. This was the beginning of an outstanding tournament for the Germans, who won every single one of their matches. This, when added on to their previous success in 2003, set an unprecedented unbeaten run of 12 World Cup matches, which was only surpassed in 2019 by the USA, when they became the second team to defend their title.

© IMAGO / Ulmer
© IMAGO / Ulmer

The “group of death”
However, it wasn’t only Germany that were grabbing the headlines in the group stages, with all eyes drawn to Group B – the uncontested “group of death” for that year. Three of the five top ranked teams in the world – USA, Sweden, and North Korea – were grouped together, with tournament veterans Nigeria thrown into the mix. What made this combination even more exciting, was that the exact same group had been drawn in 2003, making for some promising rematches. While the USA surprised no-one by finishing top of the table, Sweden conceded their second-place finish of the previous edition to North Korea, who beat them on goal difference, largely thanks to an exciting 2-2 draw against the USA.

Although there were no debutants at this FIFA Women’s World Cup, it did end a 12-year absence for England from the biggest tournament in women’s football. While the Lionesses are a powerhouse of the modern era, reaching at least the semi-finals in 2015, 2019 and 2023, the 2007 competition marked their first appearance since 1995. They would go on to the Round of 16 in China, the most memorable moment for the Lionesses was in the group stage against Japan when Kelly Smith scored against Japan and removed and kissed her boot, giving birth to an iconic celebration in the process.

Elsewhere, Brazil and Norway were setting the attacking standards in their respective groups, with both teams scoring 10 goals in their three games to finish top of the group. However, the South Americans had marked themselves out as Germany’s equals already – as the only two teams not to concede a single goal in the group stage.

While Brazil would eventually break their streak in the quarter-finals, letting two goals in to Australia, German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer stood strong – becoming the first goalie, male or female, to maintain a clean sheet for an entire FIFA World Cup tournament.

© FREDERICK J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
© FREDERICK J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Marta leads Brazil into the final
Brazil went on to easily knock out the USA in the semi-finals, netting four unanswered goals against the two-time champions, and securing their first ever appearance in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final. Two of these strikes were from Marta and stand amongst the greatest goals ever by the tournament’s all-time record scorer.

While it would be a few years before she earned the all-time accolade, Marta was already leading the way in 2007, entering Brazil’s first final as the tournament’s leading scorer with seven goals to her name, while her teammates had netted another ten between them. If anyone was going to challenge Nadine Angerer to knock Germany off their pedestal, surely it had to be the South Americans?

Germany, after comfortably defeating both North Korea and Norway, lined up on the opposite side of the pitch, become the first defending champions in history to reach a final. This match also marked the first time that the deciding match of a FIFA Women’s World Cup replicated a previous men’s, with Brazil beating Germany in the 2002 final in Yokohama.

However, the tables of history were to be turned, with the European’s taking their chance to emerge victorious in a final hosted in Asia. Germany captain Birgit Prinz, making a record third Women’s World Cup final appearance, broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half, with a dynamic header.

Nadine Angerer proves to be unbeatable
Silvia Neid’s squad effectively nullified the danger presented by Marta, blocking any link up with her teammates and denying her the chance to create the magic in front of goal that she had become known for. All that looked set to change in the 64th minute though, as Brazil were awarded a chance to equalise in the form of a penalty, with their creative star stepping up to the spot. Fans were left gobsmacked however, as Nadine Angerer proved herself truly unbeatable by coolly saving a Marta penalty.

Even if Brazil had managed to convert the opportunity, it wouldn’t have been enough, as a 21-year-old Simone Laudehr headed Renate Lingor’s corner into the back of the net; putting the competition to rest in the closing minutes of the match and sealing Germany’s place in history as the first team in history to win consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cups.

Marta’s outstanding performance was recognised with both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards which, although a mark a great personal achievement, would have felt like a consolation prize, as she and her team walked past the shining trophy that was to be Germany’s once more.

It may be 16 years since the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007, but that tournament in China proved to be the first glimpse on the biggest stage for players who would go on to become icons of the women’s game in years ahead. While players like Marta and Angerer clearly (and deservedly) are synonymous with this edition, it was also where players like Ali Riley (New Zealand), Jill Scott (England), Aya Miyama (Japan) and Carli Lloyd (USA) all represented their countries at the World Cup for the first time and, as history shows, it would not be their last.