Women's Football: Through the years of the Algarve Cup

Germany v Norway - Algarve Cup

The international tournament held in southern Portugal took somewhat of a backseat this year as the SheBelieves Cup and COVID-19 cancellations fought for all the sports media coverage.

Despite the lack of U.K. based coverage, however, the tournament isn't one to ignore. With the Women's Euros and Olympics just around the corner (or so we thought), this year's Algarve Cup was the perfect stage to impress in time for a call-up.

But obviously, not everything went to plan. As Coronavirus shattered the dreams of a summer Olympic Games, it also pulled the plug on football fixtures across the globe - including this year's Algarve Cup final between Italy and Germany.

Instead of dwelling on what could've been or wondering when international football will be back on our screens, we've been reminiscing on some of the best bits from past Algarve Cup tournaments that have been and gone, choosing our favourite moments for you to look back on.

Germany v Norway - Algarve Cup

1994
An inaugural tournament is always a little bit more exciting, right? Consisting of merely two groups of three in the group stage, the invite-only tournament was contested between hosts Portugal, four Scandic countries Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, and the USA.

Norway kicked things off with a 6-0 win over Finland, as did the USA who managed to put five past the Portuguese hosts on 16 March. Portugal then played Sweden just a day later on 17 March, and it comes as no surprise that yet again they failed to score and lost 3-0.

It was the USA, who had won the World Cup three years prior, and Norway that faced off in the final, with Norway winning 1-0 in front of a crowd of 1,152. The Norwegians then went onto win the World Cup the year after, so the Algarve Cup has a pretty good history of predicting the next best thing in women's football.

Except for 1995 when Sweden took the trophy home, Norway went on a winning streak as they claimed the Algarve Cup simultaneously in '96, '97 and '98.

MIA HAMM USA

2000
The tournament had reached the Millenium as well as it's sixth year and the USA were out for revenge on previous champs Norway.

This time around, the cup competition's group stage featured two groups of four, with the addition of both China and Canada. It was the Canadians debut, unlike China who had already won the competition the previous year in 1999.

The USA, who were fresh from winning the 1999 World Cup, opened the tournament with a thrashing of Portugal, this time by seven goals to nil instead of the measly five that they managed in '94. Hosts Portugal ended up finishing bottom of their group in 2000, with zero points and a goal difference of -13.

In Group B, reigning champions China meant business as they won 4-0 against newbies Canada and 4-1 against Finland, but their winning streak was brought to an end by Algarve Cup OG's Norway who beat them 3-0 thanks to a Dagny Mellgren hat trick and sailed through to the final.

Yet again we were treated to a USA v Norway final that also ended 1-0 - but this time it was World Champions America that secured their first-ever Algarve Cup after Brandi Chastain scored the only goal of the game: a ninth-minute penalty.

Hosts Portugal came last in the tournament, and they would continue to achieve bottom-half results for the next 18 years.

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2005
Lionesses incoming! England made their Algarve Cup debut in 2002, finishing ninth, and decided to give it another go in 2005, the year they hosted the Women's Euros for the first time.

England, France, Germany and Northern Ireland all took part this time around, as well as Mexico who made the long trip over the Atlantic to make their Algarve Cup debut.

2002 saw the addition of a group, meaning three lots of four would make up the tournaments group stage. Since '02, the competition's format was tweaked so that only those in Group A and B, the strongest ranked teams, would be in contention for the cup. Winners of A and B would then face off in the final, second place would play for third place and so on. Those in Group C would play for 7-12 finishing places.

England fell into Group C where they faced Mexico, last year's last-placed Northern Ireland and hosts Portugal. As hoped, the Lionesses finished top of their group and won all three games with goals from the likes of Karen Carney, Casey Stoney, Fara Williams and Rachel Yankey. They went onto play China, who finished bottom of Group A, in the seventh-place match. The match ended in a goalless draw, but China ended up winning 5-3 on penalties.

As expected, the USA finished top of Group B and Germany placed first in Group A. Another 1-0 winning final and the USA achieved their fourth Algarve Cup in front of a crowd of 1,000.

France's captain Sonia Bompastor (R) vie


2012
We've skipped to 2012, as the USA reached all seven finals, winning five Algarve Cups in the process. We're still stuck with the same Group A, B and C format, but this time around Finland, England, Mexico, France and Northern Ireland give it a miss - perhaps they had one eye on the 2012 London Olympics? Instead, income Iceland, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Wales and Japan.

Yet again, Germany finished top of Group A beating China, Iceland and Sweden. The USA were on target to finish top of Group B, until an 84th-minute winning goal saw Japan snatch first-place from the Americans, meaning it would be the first time in nine years that they wouldn't play in the final. 1,000 people showed up to watch the Group B showdown between Japan and the USA, despite the other games only attracting crowds of around 300.

Wales finished top of Group C, with help from a couple of Helen Ward and Angharad James goals, but failed to overcome Norway and finished the tournament in eighth place.

This year we were treated to a drama-filled goal-fest of a final between Germany and Japan. The Germans went 1-0 up in the 20th minute, thanks to Lyon's Dzsenifer Marozsán and doubled their two minutes later as now-retired Célia Šašić got her name on the scoresheet. Nahomi Kawasumi opened up the game for Japan in the 35th and Tanaka made it two ten minutes into the second half.

The score stayed 2-2 until the 88th minute when Šašić made it 3-2 for Germany, but two minutes later Japanese striker Nagasato dragged it back to 3-3. With the clock ticking over into stoppage time, it seemed the final would have to be decided with extra time and penalties until Célia Šašić fired home the winner in the 92nd minute, scoring her hat trick and securing a second Algarve Cup for Germany. Heartbreak for Japan, but immense scenes for the mere 500 people that rolled out to watch.

Germany's Celia Mbabi (2ndL) celebrates

2017
Five years later and Spain are on the scene, but the USA, Germany, France and England all gave it a miss as they get stuck into the second edition of the SheBelieves Cup.

In Germany and America's absence, debutants Spain thrived, finishing top of their group ahead of three-time finalists, Japan. A lot had changed in five years. Norway finished the competition bottom having failed to win a game, and Japan couldn't overcome the Netherlands to finish in fifth.

Australia and Denmark were forced to penalties after a 1-1 draw in their third-place game. Sam Kerr and Clare Polkinghorne both missed their pen, gifting Denmark a 4-1 win and third-place finish. Barcelona's Leila Ouahabi was the only goalscorer in the 2017 final, with a fifth-minute goal that secured debutants Spain their first-ever Algarve Cup.

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