The focus on international women’s soccer is as great as it has ever been at a global level. More and more fans are tuning in – especially to international matches – to follow the women’s team of their country with pride. The delayed 2021 Euros that are being played in 2022 are a roaring success and the standard of play and excitement is keeping eyes glued to TV sets all over Europe. It has also led to plenty of debate, including the topical question below.
Who is the best international Women’s team? There are two different ways of answering this question. The best women’s soccer team of all time is the USA. There have been eight Women’s World Cups since the competition was introduced in 1991 and the USA has won exactly half of them with four. They have also won the last two Women’s World Cups (2015 & 2019) and as they sit top of the FIFA Women’s Rankings, they are also the best international Women’s team right now.
Here is a look at some of the best women’s international teams, either historically, currently, or both.
The USA’s claim as the best international team historically only really has one competitor (we will get to them shortly). The USA won the first-ever Women’s World Cup held in China back in 1991 when they beat Norway 2-1 in the final. They then won the tournament (famously) on home soil in 1999, before taking the trophy the last two times the World Cup was played.
Perhaps the biggest mark of their success on the world stage is their incredible consistency. The USA has never finished outside of the medal places (first/second/third) at any of the eight World Cups. They also own the biggest ever World Cup win thanks to a 13-0 demolition of Thailand in 2019, and the biggest win in a final when they beat Japan 5-2 in 2015. Add in four Olympic Gold Medals (in seven competitions) and it is an easy choice.
If this list had been written at the end of the 2010s then it might have been Germany topping the list as the best ever. The Germans have been essential peerless in Europe, winning a stunning eight of the 12 completed editions before Euro 2022. They first won the title in 1989 and only failed to win it again once (1993) until the Netherlands took the trophy in 2017.
Germany also picked up a pair of World Cup drinks that ran in 2003 and 2007. Their team from 2000 through to 2010 was one of the best ever seen in the women’s game, a machine of fitness and skill. Germany is currently ranked in the Top 5 in the world and much is expected of them in England.
The other historically outstanding team still performing at the very highest level is Sweden. The Scandinavian countries (especially Sweden and Norway) were among the very best in the world in the early days of competitive women’s soccer at a national level. Sweden won the first-ever Women’s Euros over England and have gone on to finish runners-up on three other occasions. They were also defeated finalists in a World Cup final (2003) and have finished third in that competition three times.
Sweden is one of the fancied teams at Euro ‘22 and for good reason. They are second in the FIFA world rankings and, importantly, they are the highest-ranked European team behind only the USA. Their 2021 was outstanding as they finished with 11 wins and one draw, though that draw was a painful one as it was against Canada in the Olympic Final where they then lost on penalties.
A powerful force at the beginning of Women’s soccer, Norway is maybe not the force they once were. This is a team with an Olympic Gold medal (2000), a Women’s World Cup win (1995), and the only country other than Germany to have won more than one Women’s Euros. They did so in 1987 and 1993, and this is a competition they have also been runners-up of on four occasions.
Norway is currently the No. 11 ranked Women’s team in the world and the seventh-ranked European nation on that list. Their 8-0 defeat by England in the Euro 2022 pool stages was a sobering moment for a once proud nation when it comes to women’s soccer.
England is an interesting case as they have never actually won a major international women’s soccer tournament. One issue that England has is that they have one less tournament than the other countries because they compete in the Olympics as Great Britain. Until recently that meant they missed out completely on the Olympics, but a rule change now sees the British ladies competing at the Games if they qualify.
Even so, they haven’t been the constant tournament threat of other countries. Their fourth-place finish at France 2019 was the first time they had made it to the semi-finals of a World Cup, while their two Euros finals defeats included a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of Germany in 2009. This group of Lionesses is looking to change that narrative on home soil in 2022.
A country with zero history in women’s football, the Netherlands have been on a tear over the last few years. They rode a wave to success in their home Euros in 2017, beating Denmark 4-2 in the first final to contain neither Germany or Norway since 1984. As an encore, the current fourth-ranked nation in the world pushed the USA all the way in the final of France 2019 before going down 2-0 in their final.
No list of soccer teams is ever complete without Brazil. The women’s game is still developing in America and the ninth-ranked Brazilians are currently the highest-ranked nation in that part of the world. Brazil has had a smattering of stars over the years, with Marta immediately coming to mind, but they have yet to replicate the success of their men’s squad in tournaments. Their best result was coming second in the 2007 World Cup and they have lost in the Round of 16 in the previous two tournaments.
Just a shout-out to the women of North Korea for having easily the biggest disparity between their ranking and their male counterpoints in the FIFA rankings. The women currently sit at No. 10 in the rankings after peaking at No. 5. The men sat at 112 with a high of 57 all-time.