In 1991, the first FIFA Women’s World Cup took place, although it was initially named the “FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup.” And five years later, in 1996, the first Olympic women’s soccer tournament took place. Clearly, the 1990s represented a new era for women’s soccer, and it was defined by the United States succeeding on the international stage.
The US won the first World Cup, and the first Olympics, and finished off the 1990s with a second World Cup win, this time on home soil. Those wins gave the impression of US dominance. The reality, though, was anything but. Rather, this was a highly competitive era, and an ideological battle between four major national teams with distinctly different playing styles. The United States, Norway, China and Germany all went toe to toe, impacting the game’s overall development for decades afterwards.
The three-front, the back pass and the zonal defense
The United States went into the inaugural World Cup with a point to prove, that they could compete with the rest of the world on a soccer field. They entered the tournament with a unique 3-4-3 system, something that proved to be a difference maker. With three players up front, they could apply pressure on the opponent’s build-up in a way nobody else could.
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