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The 12 Most Adrenaline-Packed Moments in Women’s World Cup History

Corbis / Christopher Morris

The Women’s World Cup (WWC) is heating up! On Tuesday night, Team USA beat Nigeria 1-0, placing them firmly at the top of their group. Abby Wambach scored the U.S.’s impressive and only goal of the night—but it’s just one of many fantastic moments in the history of the WWC.

Since the WWC’s start in 1991, Team USA has experienced big and little victories (and, you know, some heartbreak, too). So we rounded up the 12 most exhilarating moments of the WWC, number one being the most elation-filled. Please note that our ranking system was highly scientific and not at all subjective (kidding!).

12. When Abby Wambach Scored the Only Goal of the Quarterfinal vs. Norway (2003)
In 2003, Team USA suffered a rough loss against Germany in the semifinals. But they only ended up in that match in the first place because of this goal from Abby Wambach in the quarterfinals—the U.S. inched past Norway in that game with a final score of 1-0. Watch Wambach’s goal here around the 43-second mark:

 

11. When Mia Hamm Got Team USA Spirit Flowing Through Your Veins (2015)
Okay, not exactly a game moment from WWCs past, but it’ll fire up your heart nonetheless: This past Monday night—the night before Team USA’s victory over Nigeria—Mia Hamm stopped by a U.S. party and led the crowd in a rousing, inspiring chant of “I Believe That We Will Win.” You need to watch it:

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10. When Cindy Parlow Nailed a Flying Header (1999)
This goal didn’t happen during a nail-biting match—Team USA beat Nigeria 7-1—but it was an undeniably incredible feat of athleticism. Brandi Chastain headed a pass to Cindi Parlow, who headed it into the net. Watch the badass-ery:

 

9. When Kristine Lilly Stepped onto the Field Eight Years Ago (2007)
Captain Kristine Lilly was on Team USA for the Women’s World Cup in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007—making her the first woman to appear at five WCs. #superstar

8. When Japan Shocked Everyone and Beat Team USA in the Final (2011)
Wait, wait, hear us out on this one: Following the tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan in 2011, their team—total underdogs—won the first-ever Cup title by an Asian country. Team USA understood the significance. “If any other country was to win this, then I’m really happy and proud for Japan,” Carli Lloyd told NBC Sports. “Deep down inside, I really thought it was our destiny to win it. But maybe it was Japan’s.” Abby Wambach shared a similar sentiment with NBC Sports: “It just seemed like all of Japan suffered so much. …It seemed like their country needed them to win more than ours.”

 

7. When Mia Hamm Showed She’s Such a Baller, She Can Play Goalie, Too (1995)
Team USA goalkeeper Briana Scurry got ejected in the 90th minute of the U.S.’s match against Denmark, their second group game. NBD, though—Mia Hamm threw on a yellow jersey and played goalie like it was her regular gig, even making a great save.

 

6. When Brandi Chastain Redeemed Herself in the Quarterfinal Against Germany (1999)
In a really rough moment, Chastain scored a goal against her own team within the first five minutes of this match. All’s well that end’s well, though, and Chastain scored an impressive goal to tie things up 2-2 in the 48th minute of play. She celebrated pretty fantastically, too (though that awesomeness was probably slightly overshadowed by a certain sports bra celebration that came later on in the competition…). Hop through the full game here to watch both moments mentioned.

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5. …And When and Joy Fawcett Put Team USA in the Lead in That Same Quarterfinal (1999)
It was the goal that brought the score to 3-2 USA—and clinched the U.S.’s spot in the semifinal against Brazil. Watch the 65th minute of play to see it in all its glory.

4. When Kristine Lilly Saved Team USA in Sudden-Death Overtime During the Final (1999)
Everyone knows that Team USA won the 1999 World Cup in a shootout against China. But they wouldn’t have made it to that shootout if it hadn’t been for this incredible move from Kristine Lilly. In the ninth minute of sudden-death overtime, U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry missed a save. As the ball flew through the air and into the goal, it was Lilly who jumped up and headed the ball out the danger zone. “I remember looking at Julie Foudy as we ran back up the field and the look on our faces told that story,” Lilly told ussoccer.com. “We started laughing…’Did that just really happen?’”

3. When Michelle Akers Owned the First-Ever WWC Final (1991)
Team USA won the inaugural Women’s World Cup, which took place in China in 1991. For the final, the U.S. beat Norway 2-1, and rock star Michelle Akers scored both of those Team USA goals. Check them out:

 

2. When Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe Saved Team USA with Seconds Remaining—Literally (2011)
Team USA was losing 2-1 in the quarterfinal against Brazil when the game entered stoppage time. In what soccer fans recently voted the greatest goal in FIFA Women’s World Cup history, Megan Rapinoe sent an approximately 45-yard pass to Abby Wambach, who sent a header into the goal in the final seconds of the match.  
Team USA ended up winning the game 5-3 in a penalty shootout.

 

1.When Brandi Chastain Scored the Game-Winning Penalty Kick and Ripped Off Her Sports Bra in Jubilation (1999)
Did you expect anything else? The score was tied 4-4, and 90,185 spectators—the most in the history of any women’s sporting event—watched at the Rose Bowl as Chastain made the final attempt of each team’s five penalty kicks. When she nailed it, well, you know the rest… You can watch the entire penalty shootout (and final celebration) here.

Courtesy of giphy.com

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