Record crowds expected as Women's World Cup kicks off despite Auckland shooting

July 20, 2023 - 18:58
The Vietnamese national women’s team is showing great determination ahead of its opening match against the US at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 22.
The official logo of the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup is displayed during the opening ceremony. AFP/VNA Photo

AUCKLAND The ninth Women's World Cup opened with a celebration of New Zealand's traditional Maori culture yesterday.

After an opening ceremony including the famous Haka war dance, New Zealand's Football Ferns opened the tournament at Auckland's Eden Park against Norway yesterday in what is likely to surpass the host nation's previous biggest crowd for an international football match.

Co-hosts Australia, known as the Matildas, began their campaign against the Republic of Ireland in front of a sellout crowd of around 70,000 fans at Stadium Australia in Sydney – a record attendance for a women’s soccer match in the country.

Women were banned from official facilities in England, the home of the game, until 1970, and female players faced similar discrimination in many other countries.

But the sport has achieved greater prominence in recent years, with large increases in female players and spectators globally.

Tracey Taylor, a professor of sports management at RMIT University in Melbourne, said many members of grassroots football clubs expected the tournament to have a transformative effect for participation in women’s sport in Australia.

"They say it’s such a game changer for them in positioning the sport, not only globally, but also within the local community and raising awareness,” she said.

Fireworks explode at the opening ceremony of the 2023 Women's World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. AFP/VNA Photo

Demand down under

Players like talismanic striker Sam Kerr are household names in sport-mad Australia, with tickets for matches involving the home nation selling out months in advance.

"I'm sure that the whole of Australia will be behind the team tonight," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a radio interview with state broadcaster ABC on Thursday.

"I think that Australians are really realising just how big this event is."

In New Zealand, whose sporting culture is dominated by rugby union and its famous All Blacks, demand has been lower, with tickets remaining for many fixtures.

Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s Secretary-General, said tickets sold had already exceeded the total number sold for the last tournament in France, but sales in New Zealand had lagged its much larger neighbour.

“We know that Kiwis are late ticket purchasers when it comes to tournaments that are played on their shores,” she told a news conference in Auckland on Wednesday.

“We still have tickets available for some matches. So my only plea is don't wait until the last moment.”

The Vietnamese national women’s team are ready for the World Cup. Photo VFF

Việt Nam ready for World Cup

The Vietnamese national women’s team is showing great determination ahead of its opening match against the US on July 22.

Having to face the US team is a big challenge for Việt Nam, especially considering this is the country's first time participating in a FIFA tournament. The US women's team is currently ranked number one in the world and holds the record for winning the Women's World Cup four times.

This hasn't caused the Vietnamese girls to lose their spirits and the team is ready to compete in its first appearance at the world’s biggest women's football event.

“Facing the US team is extremely difficult, but it is also a great opportunity for us to meet the best challengers in the world. We will be confident, play our best, and show a good performance against them. We are determined not to lose in spirit and will," defender Lê Thị Diễm My said.

According to My, the Việt Nam team will aim for ease of movement and flexibility when playing football in the upcoming matches.

In recent training sessions, coach Mai Đức Chung has focussed on suitable personnel and tactics and calculations in defence.

Việt Nam will face the defending champions at 8am local time in New Zealand on July 22 at Eden Park Stadium.

Later, they will play against Portugal at 2:30pm on July 27, and against the runners-up Netherlands in the final match of the group stage at 2pm on August 1.

Việt Nam’s national women’s team was formed in 1990 and played its first official international match in 1997.

Attending the Women's World Cup for the first time, Việt Nam is one of the least experienced teams in the tournament. However, over the past 26 years, the team have made great strides, having recently risen from 42nd to 32nd in the FIFA world rankings. REUTERS/VNS