Australia, New Zealand mark one-year countdown to Women’s World Cup

Colourful ceremonies in Australia and New Zealand marked the one-year countdown to the ninth Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, culminating in the lighting up of landmarks across the nine host cities.

The 32-team tournament, the first Women’s World Cup in the southern hemisphere, will kick off in Sydney and Auckland on July 20 next year when Australia’s Matildas and New Zealand’s Football Ferns play their opening matches.

A cultural lighting ceremony started the day at dawn in Hamilton, New Zealand, while FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura was later on hand to unveil a “Unity Pitch” beside Sydney harbour.

“Today the gap between the men’s game and the women’s game is going to get smaller and smaller,” she told reporters.

“We’ve seen after each World Cup that the number of people who register in the host country, but also in the countries that were a part of the game, is immediately multiplied by three.”

Samoura said football’s global governing body was discussing raising the prize pool even further to $100 million.

The prize pool for the 2019 tournament in France, won by the United States, was $30 million and FIFA have already committed to a $60 million pot for next year.