Why Australia and New Zealand are perfect World Cup hosts

Earth’s time zones are often confusing things, and over the next five weeks, the FIFA Women’s World Cup will show this to its fullest. Having flown to New Zealand from the west coast a week earlier to prepare for their title defense, the United States team landed two days later, even though the flight took more than 12 hours.

When it finally flies home from Sydney (5pm PDT) or Auckland (7pm), either enjoying back-to-back glory or as a ousted former champion, time essentially stands still. Will remain

Talking about the timing seems relevant for the times to come as this World Cup looks like ushering in a new dawn for women’s football and the choice of venue largely depends on that.

What happens next month is one of the most important moments for both Australia and New Zealand in their sporting history.

History will be made here with a record number of teams (32), but perhaps also a glimpse into how future global football competitions may be shaped, structured and delivered.

While Australia and New Zealand have long historical ties and close contemporary ties, this was nevertheless an unprecedented roster. There has been a co-host World Cup in the past – Japan and South Korea welcomed the men in 2002 – and there will be more World Cups in the future, starting with the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026.

But in football terms, Australia and New Zealand occupy different confederations, with Australia switching to the Asian Zone (AFC) 17 years ago to raise the level of competition and increase its chances of qualifying for the men’s World Cup. Was. Asia has more allotted places. New Zealand remained with the Oceanic Confederation (OFC).

2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: New Zealand squad preview with Alexi Lalas

An inter-federal World Cup was once considered impossible. But with the men’s tournament expanding to 48 teams, it is now something that will be at least controversial, and a Greece/Egypt/Saudi Arabia bid for 2030 is already in the pipeline.

However, for the time being, football fans on the field and casual TV viewers attending the World Cup are likely to feel that the current hosting arrangement is a good substitute.

Neither Australia nor New Zealand live and breathe football, as it is consumed obsessively in Europe and South America, but at the core of each place runs an overall sporting pulse that few compare. countries can do.

Friendly, and sometimes less friendly, competition is a part of what makes these places operate. Both are relatively sparsely populated countries and somewhat isolated geographically. Australia (population: 25.67 million) and New Zealand (5.12 million) continue to punch above their weight in the stakes of global relevance.

National identity through sports plays a major role. The All Blacks rugby team and its famous “haka” are perhaps New Zealand’s most famous exports.

Australia has a long history of sporting excellence in a variety of disciplines. It has its own national game, Australian Rules football, but other codes are also followed enthusiastically, such as rugby, cricket and rapid football.

The Olympics are also receiving tremendous support and the city of Brisbane will host the Summer Games in 2032, Australia’s third time to receive the distinction. Cathy Freeman’s 400 m victory in Sydney in the 2000 remains arguably Australia’s finest sporting time. (He recently made a surprise visit to Matilda ahead of the World Cup.)

Both hosts have taken steps to acknowledge the troubled historical ties they have with their indigenous peoples. First Nations flags will be flown alongside the national flag at matches in both countries, while the original name of each host city will be used alongside the more commonly used version on official FIFA documentation.

2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: Australia squad preview with Alexi Lalas

2023 FIFA Women's World Cup: Australia squad preview with Alexi Lalas

Australian striker Sam Kerr, one of the world’s best players, has spoken of her desire for this tournament to provide a new “Cathy Freeman moment” and inspire a new generation of women and Indigenous athletes – Freeman is one The Aboriginal is Australian and he spoke recently .week with Kerr and his companions.

“If you ask half the girls on the team, Cathy Freeman was their role model growing up,” Kerr said earlier this year. “So for us, that’s the legacy we want to leave – that we inspire the country, we inspire the country to believe in women’s football, to believe in Matilda.”

New Zealand’s football ferns are looking for their moment. They have been placed in a tough group but have a chance to win, which will give them a possible chance in the elimination round.

The tournament begins Thursday morning with Norway against New Zealand (3 p.m. ET on Fox and the Fox Sports app) and Ireland against Australia (6 p.m. ET on Fox and the Fox Sports app).

These are places where people love to watch sports, but also love to play. According to the Clearinghouse for Sport, the Australian government’s athletics program, 41 per cent of adults participate in organized sports every week.

Sports are not just a form of entertainment or pastime in these parts. When the national team plays, it is something to chase with desire and dedication.

The World Cup is always a spectacle beyond compare and the television coverage will provide no shortage of stunning visuals from both venues, as well as “mates” from orbit and discussion of kangaroos and “Lord of the Rings” all part of the fun. Will be

But although it is a new venue for an international football tournament, it is a worthy venue, as time – it is there again – will surely tell.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for Fox Sports and author of the Fox Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @mrrogersfox And Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter,

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