By Andrew Warshaw
June 23 – The pain still lingers but all good things come to those who wait. Ten years after the humiliation of being trounced when bidding for the 2022 World Cup, Australia are poised to be granted what could arguably be described as the next best thing – the women’s equivalent. Even if it means sharing with neighbours New Zealand.
Japan’s withdrawal from the 2023 women’s World Cup bid process, following that of Brazil, leaves the Australasian partnership in pole position with only outsiders Colombia to beat when the FIFA Council votes on Thursday.
Victory would mark an historic cross-Confederation first with Australia part of the Asian Football Confederation and New Zealand representing Oceania even though they geographically lie in the same region. It would also take the Women’s World Cup to the southern hemisphere for the first time.
But the nerves will jangle right up until the result is actually announced and the champagne is very much on ice for a couple of days yet.
Back in December, 2010, Australia thought they had a fighting chance to get the men’s 2022 World Cup after a heavily government-funded campaign. But with a string of shenanigans going on behind the scenes, they ended up getting just one vote as Qatar romped to victory after a singularly unedifying process that scarred the political footballing landscape in Australia for years.
This time, there seems little likelihood of similar disappointment and hosting a top-ranked FIFA event would bring huge benefits to a region starved of major tournaments.
Colombia, the sole remaining rival candidate, was ranked way behind the Australia-New Zealand bid by the evaluation panel and it would surely be unthinkable for Fifa’s top brass to repeat the errors of the past by ignoring the experts’ recommendation and opting for the South Americans.
In the last 24 hours, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern pledged in an open letter to FIFA that the two countries would host a tournament to be proud of.
“An Australia-New Zealand FIFA Women’s World Cup would embody our passion for women’s football and proud commitment to equality and fairness, creating a profound and enduring legacy for the future of women’s football within the region and beyond,” they said.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) President Chris Nikou and New Zealand Football’s Johanna Wood said the joint bid had left no stone unturned.
“We are doing everything we can in this crucial last phase to communicate just what a game changer our hosting concept would be for women’s football – across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” they said.
Barring the mother of all upsets, they should soon be celebrating.
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