The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was an exhilarating tournament packed full of joyful moments, historic achievements and heartbreak – all in equal measure.
Featuring an expanded format of 32 teams, countries from around the world came together to compete for football’s biggest prize in Australia and New Zealand between 20 July and 20 August.
This summer’s event has been hailed by many as the greatest ever Women’s World Cup, both for the incredible displays on the pitch, and the support from fans.
A record-breaking tournament, attendance and viewership figures eclipsed that of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
Nearly two million people flocked to 10 stadiums across Australia and New Zealand during the competition’s four week period – unprecedented figures for women’s football – and tens of millions tuned in at home to watch the thrilling matches.
We can’t wait to see it all unfold once again in 2027 at the next tournament, but for now, these are the 10 most important, powerful and emotional moments that will stay with us from the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Spain win historic first World Cup
Spanish players celebrate after Spain beats England in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. (Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Spain made history by taking home the title for the first time on Sunday (20 August), following their triumph over England’s Lionesses in a 1-0 win.
Olga Carmona scored Spain’s only goal of the match when she slotted the ball past Mary Earps in the 29th minute.
Spain’s victory is surely a bittersweet one for Carmona though, as she was told after the match that her father had passed away on Friday. Her family reportedly did not tell her that her dad, who had been fighting a long illness, had died so she could focus fully on the final.
“And without knowing it, I had my star before the game started,” she wrote on social media.
“I know that you have given me the strength to achieve something unique. I know that you have been watching me tonight and that you are proud of me. Rest in peace dad.”
Megan Rapinoe misses her final penalty shot
Megan Rapinoe of the United States reacts to missing her penalty in the shoot-out during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16 match between USA and Sweden. (Alex Pantling – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Heartbreak was palpable for USA fans after football legend and gay icon Megan Rapinoe missed her penalty kick during her country’s penalties against Sweden in the Round of 16.
She, along with three other US players, missed their penalties which resulted in the current champions crashing out of the competition, the earliest the nation has ever exited from the World Cup.
Prior to the World Cup beginning, Rapinoe announced this tournament would be her last and she would be retiring from professional football.
Sending her penalty high over the bar was a tragic end to what would be Rapinoe’s final World Cup match.
Alba Redondo and girlfriend bring queer joy to the world stage
Spain’s Alba Redondo kisses her partner Cristina Monleón after Spain’s 5-0 World Cup victory over Zambia. (Hannah Peters/FIFA/Getty)
A now well-shared picture of Alba Redondo and her girlfriend Cristina Monleón kissing sent LGBTQ+ football fans into a frenzy for bringing queer joy to the pitch.
Following Spain’s 5-0 victory over Zambia, Monleón leaned out of the stands to give the Levante UD forward a celebratory smooch on the lips.
The image quickly became an iconic moment of LGBTQ+ visibility at the tournament.
The loved-up pair are no strangers to sharing their relationship with the public, with Monleón posting some very cute and very sapphic snaps of the two following Spain’s win over England in the World Cup final.
Sarina Bolden scores Philippines first ever goal
Sarina Bolden of Philippines celebrates after scoring her team’s first goal during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a match between New Zealand and Philippines. (Katelyn Mulcahy – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Despite failing to progress beyond the group stage, the Philippines achieved a historic first when midfielder Sarina Bolden scored the country’s first ever World Cup goal, clinching a win against hosts New Zealand.
“It feels overwhelming,” an emotional Bolden said about the goal in an interview. “It feels crazy, it feels like I’m in a dream.
“It doesn’t feel real but I’m really happy and proud I could do that for Philippines soccer.”
Lionesses console Jorelyn Carabali after win
Jorelyn Carabali of Colombia looks dejected after the FIFA Women’s World Cup Quarter Final match between England and Colombia. (Amy Halpin/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
In a moment of true sportswomanship, members of the Lionesses squad comforted Colombia players after the Lionesses defeated the South American team 2-1 and progressed to the semi-finals.
Perhaps one of the most endearing features of this World Cup has been the support winning teams have offered their competitors after the final whistle was blown.
“We all know the feeling of being knocked out of a World Cup and it’s one of the worst feelings in the world,” England’s Keira Walsh explained.
“When you can see fellow players who are really upset, I think the natural human thing is just to go over and see if they are OK.
“I’d like to think that most people would do the same in that situation.”
Ali Riley’s emotional after New Zealand win
Ali Riley of New Zealand applauds fans after the team’s 1-0 victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Group A match between New Zealand and Norway. (Hannah Peters – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Like the Philippines, New Zealand also secured their first ever World Cup win when they beat Norway 1-0 in a shock defeat.
What the win meant to the host nation was clear to see on the face of captain Ali Riley.
Visibly emotional, Riley’s post-match interviews also drew attention from LGBTQ+ fans for the fact she had painted her nails the colours of the Pride progress flag – defying FIFA rainbow ban in an act of true allyship.
Ona Batlle comforts Barcalona teammate Lucy Bronze
Ona Batlle of Spain consoles Lucy Bronze of England after Spain beats England in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. (Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Hours after Spain’s World Cup victory, images of Ona Batlle comforting her Barcelona teammate Lucy Bronze went viral.
Spanish player Batlle competes alongside the Lioness at the Liga F club, meaning Batlle’s win over her fellow club member is a bittersweet one.
The image has widely shared for showcasing true sportswomanship and the importance of humility after a big win.
Katie McCabe scores a goal from a corner
Kailen Sheridan of Canada fails to touch the ball as Katie McCabe of Republic of Ireland (not pictured) scores her team’s first goal direct from a corner kick during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Group B match between Canada and Ireland. (Alex Grimm – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
A cracking goal for the Republic of Ireland saw Katie McCabe put the ball in the back of the net from a corner.
A display of epic football skill, McCabe curved the ball over Canada’s goalie Kailen Sheridan from a left-footed kick, scoring the side’s first ever World Cup goal.
The goal saw the Republic of Ireland take the lead in their match against the Olympic champions, but not before the side equalised and then sealed their win with a 53rd minute goal.
Despite the overall loss, McCabe’s goal will undeniably go down in history for the side and inspire many young girls back home.
Arianna Caruso and Cristiana Girelli dejected after Italy’s elimination
Arianna Caruso and Cristiana Girelli of Italy look dejected after the team’s defeat and elimination from the tournament in the FIFA Women’s World Cup following the Group G match between South Africa and Italy. (Katelyn Mulcahy – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
For all the dizzying highs a World Cup competition can bring, losses are truly the most heartbreaking part.
Following Italy’s exit from the tournament in the group stage, team members Arianna Caruso and Cristiana Girelli were photographed consoling each other.
The emotional image is a reminder that pain is the price you can pay when striving for greatness at the highest level.
Australia’s heart-shaped huddle
Australia players huddle after the team’s 1-3 defeat following the FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi Final match between Australia and England (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images )
Some images speak for themselves. Following their heart-wrenching defeat in the semi-finals, the Matildas formed a huddle which, likely unintentionally, looked like a heart.
Despite not being able to take it all the way, the host nation achieved their best ever World Cup performance, finishing fourth and inspiring the entire country who packed into stadiums to cheer their team on.