A performer dances beneath a balloon designed in the pattern of a soccer ball during the opening ceremony on November 16, 1991, in GuangzhouThe first Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991, with the opening ceremony in Guangzhou

From overnight sleeper trains, shared food feasts and unusual celebrations, the Women’s World Cup has enjoyed its fair share of unique moments during its 32-year history, particularly in its formative days.

BBC Sport takes a look back at those early editions and speaks to some of the people involved.

Shortened matches and timeouts

The first tournament in 1991 was given the lengthy title of the ‘1st Fifa World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&Ms Cup’ - although it was retrospectively rebranded as the World Cup. It also involved matches that lasted just 80 minutes.

The women were given the full 90 by the time the 1995 edition came around in Sweden, but another energy-saving experiment reared its head: two-minute timeouts.

Two were allowed per match and debutants Australia used the most, with coach Tom Sermanni taking the maximum allowed in each of their three matches.

Reigning European champions Germany, on the other hand, avoided the experiment completely by using none on their way to the final.

Pass the pasta

Rivals on the pitch, the players supported one another off it at the inaugural tournament in China in 1991 - by sharing their favourite foods.

The teams stayed in the same hotels back then and there were times when the menu was not to everyone’s taste. But some nations had come prepared - Germany brought snacks of salami and black bread.

Gero Bisanz, Germany’s coach at the time, allowed his players a can of beer, telling them it would help them sleep. When Denmark’s players found out, they joined the German team for an evening of merriment.

American striker Carin Jennings (12) tries to avoid the tackle of Swede Anette Hansson (3) during their Group B opening match in the inaugural match in Guangzhou stadium on November 17, 1991,Sweden and the United States were rivals on the pitch but became close off it

They were not alone. USA head coach Anson Dorrance had seen his players exist on “candy” in previous tours of China, so he brought in his brother Pete to help cook the team’s favourite pasta dishes.

And after realising group stage opponents Sweden were struggling to adapt to the food, Dorrance shared the American rations.

“I had no issue inviting the Swedes to join us,” he says. “There was this wonderful relationship back in the pioneer spirit days of the fact that ‘let’s make this women’s game something special’.

“What’s fun about being a pioneer is you’re all in this together - you don’t really thrive if you succeed and everyone else fails. We all thrive together.”

Swedish surprise

Swedish team wave bouquets to celebrate coming thirdSweden celebrated finishing third - and then joined in with the USA’s title-winning celebrations

The USA were the first to lift the trophy after a 2-1 victory over Norway in front of 63,000 spectators in Guangzhou.

And when they returned to their hotel, bronze-winning Sweden had a surprise in store. Outside the lift door, the Swedes - who had actually lost 3-2 in the group stage to the USA - had laid out their golden yellow socks to spell out “USA gold”.

Former USA defender Carla Overbeck says the memory of it still gives her goosebumps.

“We were very close with the Swedish team,” she says. “For them to recognise what we’d just accomplished - and we were their competition - was really special and kind.”

Sweden added to the celebratory mood with a made-up song, according to then captain Pia Sundhage.

“Of course I sang,” she says. “It was very spontaneous. I think it was [just being] so proud that we were actually competing and trying to figure out on the highest level who is the best - and hands down, they won!”

The spider mystery

The trophy that the USA held aloft in 1991 became known as “the spider”. It bore the words ‘World Championship for Women’s Football’ on its black base; its six leg-like strands reached up to hold a shiny golden football.

Norway raised the same trophy to the rainy skies after their 1995 title triumph - except they did not keep it for long because it disappeared in 1997 during renovations at the Norwegian Football Association.

Norway coach Even Pellerud und Hege Riise lift the trophy in 1995Norway coach Even Pellerud and Hege Riise lift the trophy in 1995

Little is known about the theft, but luckily for posterity, it is thought that the lost one was a winners’ replica rather than the actual trophy, which lies at the Fifa Museum in Switzerland.

“This would be in line with the men’s World Cup where there is the Fifa World Cup trophy itself, which is presented after the final, but is then swapped after the game with what is known as the Fifa World Cup Winner’s Trophy - a replica that the winning team takes home and is theirs to keep,” explains Fifa historian Guy Oliver.

Journeys end

United States' Tisha Venturini and Brandi Chastain battle England's Gillian Coultard for the ball during their May 9, 1997Gillian Coultard (centre), pictured playing in 1997, scored England’s first-ever World Cup goal

England went on quite the journey at their first Women’s World Cup in 1995 and not just with an impressive run to the quarter-finals.

“We landed in Denmark and got the boat over to Sweden,” recalls Doncaster Belles legend Gill Coultard, scorer of England’s first goal in the competition.

Then, after a Coultard double helped secure victory in a nail-biting 3-2 win against Canada in Helsingborg, it was all aboard… an overnight train to Karlstad to face Norway two days later - more than 300 miles and seven and a half hours away.

“To get a train and a sleeper overnight was a little bit weird to say the least,” says Coultard. “Those were the barriers you faced and we just had to get on with it. It was just a case of grab your stuff and let’s get on board the train.

“It was OK, something we had to do. We were really pleased to go to our first Women’s World Cup and be a part of it and that was an achievement in itself.”

Germany, who travelled by plane, would put the brakes on England’s run, however, with a 3-0 quarter final victory.

It’s official

Linda Black of New Zealand, Claudia de Vasconcelos, 28, sports teacher from Brazil and Zuo Xiudi of ChinaFrom left: Linda Black of New Zealand, Brazil’s Claudia de Vasconcelos and Zuo Xiudi of China before the third-placed play-off in 1991

The female officials who ran the line in the 1991 Women’s World Cup were dubbed “lineswomen” but unlike their male counterparts, they had no Fifa tournament badges to describe their status.

But the women who trod that path in the second edition of the competition four years later did - the shield sewn into their shirts bearing the words “Lineswoman Fifa 95”.

Those blue badges soon became Fifa Museum pieces, though, because the following year saw the switch to the all-encompassing “assistant referees”.

The 1999 Women’s World Cup would become the first to feature only female officials - the foundations had been laid at the 1991 tournament by Brazil’s Claudia Vasconcelos, the first woman to referee a match in a Fifa competition, and in 1995, by Swede Ingrid Jonsson, the first woman to take charge of a Fifa final.

Sudden-death heartbreakers

The Women’s World Cup was the last senior Fifa tournament to feature a golden goal decider. Just two matches in the history of the competition were settled in that most heartbreaking of ways.

The first, at USA 1999, saw Brazil forward Sissi crush Nigeria’s spirited three-goal comeback with a 104th-minute quarter-final winner in front of almost 55,000 fans in Washington DC.

Sweden were the only other team to suffer golden goal despair. Level at 1-1 with Germany after 90 minutes in the 2003 final, their dreams of glory abruptly ended by substitute Nia Kunzer’s headed winner in the 98th minute.