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Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023: New Zealand and Australia to make history as hosts

The New Zealand football community woke on Friday to news it would once have never dreamed possible – the Fifa Women’s World Cup is coming here in 2023.

Football Ferns captain Ali Riley has played at four World Cups and now has the chance to potentially make it five on home soil in July and August that year.

She posted a picture of herself in tears on social media and said: “I will never forget this moment”.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Ali Riley

✔@RileyThree

I will never forget this moment. @NZ_Football @TheMatildas #AsOne


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For three of her team-mates – Annalie Longo, Erin Nayler, and Hannah Wilkinson – it was a shared celebration in a hotel room in downtown Auckland, with camera crews present to capture their reaction.

READ MORE:* Fifa Women's World Cup 2023: New Zealand and Australia begin final countdownAustralasia's final pitch to FIFA features Jacinda Ardern not a cartoon kangarooIf the Fifa Women's World Cup doesn't come to New Zealand and Australia, it's a scandalTrans-Tasman 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup bid scores highest in technical evaluation

As Fifa president Gianni Infantino confirmed the joint bid from Australia and New Zealand had beat Colombia’s 22-13 in the Fifa Council vote, the players all screamed with delight.


GREG BOWKER/GETTY-IMAGES

Football Ferns Erin Nayler, Hannah Wilkinson, and Annalie Longo react to the announcement that the 2023 Women's World Cup will be hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

Also excited was Sports Minister Grant Robertson, who confirmed the Government would be supporting the tournament and projects surrounding it to the tune of $25 million.

His boss, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, had been working the phones this week to try to help the bid get over the line, as Fifa politics came to the fore, and NZ Football chief Andrew Pragnell said he was grateful to have her on board.

“She was willing to get on and make sure the key messages of the bid were heard and that’s brilliant.


GREG BOWKER/GETTY-IMAGES

Football Ferns goalkeeper Erin Nayler show her team-mates a photo of captain Ali Riley in tears after the 2023 World Cup hosting rights decision.

“That’s huge, and that showed in the technical report [evaluating the bids], that the Government was committed to bringing the event here.”

The trans-Tasman bid ultimately received the support of the Fifa Council members from the Asian and Oceania confederations, as expected, as well as the votes of the members from the African and North and Central American confederations.

Colombia’s bid was judged to be a riskier proposition by Fifa during the technical evaluation phase, especially with regard to commercial potential. Nevertheless, it received backing from South America, as you would expect, and also from all nine European council members.


Fifa president Gianni Infantino voted for Australia and New Zealand, but the African nations could have swung the contest had they gone the other way as a bloc.

Pragnell said the last 24 hours leading up to the announcement, which arrived just before 4am NZ time, had been surreal.

“There were lots of positive signs the whole time but it was genuinely something that we didn’t have certainty on, knowing how these things have gone in the past.


JASON MCCAWLEY/GETTY-IMAGES

The Sydney Opera House was lit up on the eve of the Fifa Council vote.

“I do think it’s a great outcome for Fifa, in terms of the process, and the fact that it was transparent. I think transparency helped with the eventual outcome.”

Japan had also been in the running when the bid evaluation report was released a fortnight ago, but withdrew earlier this week and endorsed Australia and New Zealand, who will become the first Southern Hemisphere nations to host the event.

Brazil was the other nation to submit a formal bid last December, but withdrew earlier this month, citing the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

​​​​​​​FIFA Women's World Cup

✔@FIFAWWC


The #FIFAWWC 2023 hosts are @FFA & @NZ_Football.Here you can find the FIFA Council vote breakdown.



That brought the four South American voters together behind the Colombian bid, but it fared poorly in the technical evaluation, receiving an average score of 2.8 out of 5 to Japan’s 3.9 and Australia and New Zealand’s 4.1.

The evaluation report also said the trans-Tasman bid presented the “most commercially favourable proposition”.

New Zealand and Australia now have just over three years to put together the event itself, a relatively short timeframe compared to most major tournaments.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup, for example, was awarded to New Zealand in 2005, while the 2015 Cricket World Cup was awarded to Australia and New Zealand in 2006.

New Zealand Football and Football Federation Australia will be up for the challenge, however, and determined to continue to grow an event that has become increasingly popular and will feature 32 teams for the first time.

Global viewing figures for last year’s Women’s World Cup dwarfed those of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Fifa claimed an audience of 1.12 billion for its event in June and July, while World Rugby claimed an audience of 857 million for its one, which ran from September to November.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup will be the fourth Fifa tournament hosted by New Zealand, following the men’s Under-17 World Cup in 1999, the inaugural Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008, and the men’s Under-20 World Cup in 2015.

The trans-Tasman bid proposed hosting half of the group stage matches in New Zealand, including the tournament opener, at Eden Park in Auckland, as well as knockout matches including a semifinal.


JENNY EVANS/GETTY-IMAGES

Football Federation Australia chairman Chris Nikou celebrates with staff after the results of the Fifa Council vote were announced.

A final decision on the allocation of matches is still to be made, with five Kiwi venues in contention – Eden Park, Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, Sky Stadium in Wellington, Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch, and Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

Friday’s decision will come as a boost to the Football Ferns, New Zealand’s national women’s team, who are still seeking a first World Cup win after five appearances at the tournament.

Their best results so far have been three draws – 2-2 with Mexico in 2011, where both their goals were scored in stoppage time; 0-0 with Canada in 2015; and 2-2 with China the same year, where one of the goals they conceded was a controversial penalty.

Hopes were high they might finally get their first win when they faced Cameroon in France last year, but they conceded in stoppage time to suffer a 2-1 loss that sent them out after the group stage once again.

It is hoped the successful bid will also be the catalyst for a Wellington Phoenix women’s team to enter Australia’s W-League, which would be an important step forward for the game in New Zealand.