An opportunity missed at the Women’s World Cup

May 10, 2023 - 11:08
Athletes have to stay focused on the present, but those of us not in the arena aren’t so restricted.


The Việt Nam women's team will play their World Cup fixtures in New Zealand, not Australia.VFF Photo

Peter Cowan

Athletes have to stay focused on the present, but those of us not in the arena aren’t so restricted.

The Việt Nam national women’s team are in the midst of their SEA Games title defence in Cambodia and while it’s an important tournament for many, the next time Mai Đức Chung’s charges are in competitive action will be much more significant.

Việt Nam will make their Women’s World Cup debut this summer, so you’ll forgive me for not being full of excitement for the much lower level tournament in Cambodia.

However, one element of the set-up for the World Cup seems so foolish to me that it bears of all the hallmarks of a sub-regional tournament.

The World Cup will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, definitely two great places to host a tournament.

Both countries are mad for sport, they have plenty of quality stadiums, solid infrastructure for travelling fans, and both have teams that should be competitive in the tournament.

However, some common sense with the locations of the group stage matches wouldn’t go amiss.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, Group E with the USA, the Netherlands, Portugal and Việt Nam is being hosted in New Zealand.

Nothing against the Kiwi people or their beautiful country, but wouldn’t it make far more sense for a group like that to be played in Australia?

Việt Nam’s opening fixture of the tournament is against defending champions and clear favourites the USA.

That game is slated to be played at Eden Park in Auckland and I have a feeling the 50,000 capacity stadium may have a few empty seats.

The 2018 census found that just over 10,000 Vietnamese people were living in New Zealand, while Australia is home to more than 320,000 Vietnamese speakers.

Those numbers on their own are enough reason for me to have the group in Australia, as then it would be far more likely to be a packed stadium.

Some of the other groups which are being played in Australia would be an easy swap. No disrespect to the fans of Haiti and Denmark for example, but I don’t think they would pack out stadiums in Australia like the Vietnamese fans would.

With the tournament just a couple of months away, it’s too late to do the right thing and move Group E, unless FIFA want to keep up the Qatar 2022 habit of making drastic last-minute changes.

Here’s hoping the extra flight doesn’t put off too many Vietnamese fans, but still, I can’t help thinking this is an opportunity missed. VNS