By Samindra Kunti
February 27 – The countdown to the Women’s World Cup has begun in earnest with today marking 100 days to go until France and South Korea kick-off the women’s flagship tournament in Paris on June 7.
France will stage the 24-team competition over the course of a month in summer across nine stadiums in Paris, Reims, Valenciennes, Le Havre, Rennes, Montpellier, Nice, Grenoble and Lyon. The final is set for July 7 in Lyon. Defending champions the United States, who defeated Japan 5-2 in an absorbing final four years ago, remain the favourites to retain their title.
Interest in France for the tournament has been palpable as FIFA has already sold 330,000 tickets in the form of package deals. One million tickets still remain available. Ticket prices range from €13 to €84 per game and will go on general sale on March 7. So far, 57% of buyers are French nationals, 25% United States-based and 3% UK-based.
The tournament however will not be without some controversy. Last year the FIFA Council raised the prize money for the Women’s World Cup from $15 million in 2015 to $30 million for this year’s edition, but that figure still pales in comparison to the men’s World Cup where the combined prize money is $400 million. In Russia France took home $38 million as winners. The United States received just $2 million when winning the World Cup in Canada in 2015.
Timing is another issue. The Copa America, the African Cup of Nations and the Gold Cup, three major continental championships, will also be staged this summer, as well as the finals of UEFA’s inaugural Nations League. Concurrent tournaments are almost inevitable in a crowded calendar, but FIFA has come in for a lot of criticism for scheduling the Women’s World Cup final on the same day as the men’s Copa America final and the Gold Cup final.
The governing body is also set to introduce VAR at this summer’s tournament. The review technology was the main novelty at last year’s men’s World Cup. FIFA had been seen as rushing through with the video system, but the World Cup largely passed off without major incidents. The use of VAR had been in doubt at the women’s tournament, but the FIFA Council is set to ratify its implementation in March after match officials have received VAR-specific training.
This week sees four international tournaments – Algarve Cup, SheBelieves Cup, Cyprus Cup and Cup of Nations – on the programme. The US host England, Brazil and Japan in the SheBelieves Cup. World Cup participants Canada, Scotland, Spain, Netherlands, China, Norway and Sweden will feature in the Algarve Cup. South Africa, Italy, Thailand and Nigeria will play in the Cyprus Cup and Australia, Korea Republic, New Zealand and Argentina, all going to France as well, will dispute the inaugural four-team Cup of Nations in Australia.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1566388923labto1566388923ofdlr1566388923owedi1566388923sni@o1566388923fni1566388923