Australia and New Zealand chosen to host 2023 women's World Cup

by Eric BERNAUDEAU
Sydney Opera House was lit up in celebration of Australia and New Zealand's joint bid

Australia and New Zealand will host the 2023 women's World Cup after the countries' joint bid was chosen by FIFA on Thursday.

The overwhelming favourites won ahead of their only rival Colombia, with Japan having withdrawn its own bid earlier in the week and Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and a joint Korean proposal already having fallen by the wayside.

The 2023 tournament is set to be the first 32-team women's World Cup, up from the 24 nations who competed at last year's finals in France, won by the United States.

It will be the ninth women's World Cup.

"WE DID IT! LETS GO AUSTRALIA & NZ! WORLD CUPS COMING HOME", said Chelsea's Sam Kerr, the leading star of Australian women's football, in a celebratory Instagram post.

The joint proposal by Australia and New Zealand will see games played in 13 venues across 12 cities in July and August 2023, with the opening match at Eden Park in Auckland and the final in Sydney.

Seven cities in Australia will host games, and five in New Zealand. There will be two stadiums in Sydney. Four groups will be based in each country during the first phase.

Thursday's vote came at a video-conference meeting of the 37 members of the FIFA Council as football, and global sport in general, struggles to get back on its feet in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australia and New Zealand bid was given the highest score, of 4.1 out of five, in an evaluation by world football's governing body published earlier this month.

It was followed by Japan, on 3.9, but the Japanese bid was withdrawn on Monday, with the head of the country's football association, Kozo Tajima, noting that key support was moving towards Australia and New Zealand.

In addition, he admitted that Japan's focus was on hosting next year's Olympics in Tokyo.

FIFA's evaluation report gave Colombia a score of just 2.8 out of five as it raised doubts about the ability to provide investment required to carry out "necessary improvements" and also highlighted security worries in the South American country.

Australia and New Zealand both have considerable experience when it comes to hosting major international sporting events.

Australia hosted the men's Asian Cup in 2015, with New Zealand hosting the men's under-20 World Cup in the same year.

In addition, Australia has hosted the Summer Olympics twice, in Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.

Both countries have recently hosted the men's Rugby World Cup having also jointly organised the first edition of that competition in 1987.

They also jointly staged the 1992 and 2015 Cricket World Cups.

Australia are seventh in the current FIFA women's world rankings, but the Matildas have never been beyond the quarter-finals at the World Cup and lost on penalties to Norway in the last 16 last year.

New Zealand's "Football Ferns" have never been beyond the group stage and in 2023 will be hoping to win a game at the finals for the first time.

Sydney Opera House is lit up in celebration of Australia and New Zealand?s joint bid to host the FIFA Women?s World Cup 2023