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

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

Colourful ceremonies in Australia and New Zealand marked the one-year countdown to the ninth FIFA Women’s World Cup on Wednesday.

The ceremonies culminated 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.

That is 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 dollars.

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

The 2019 tournament attracted record crowds and TV audiences, sparking an explosion in the profile of the women’s game, which organisers hope next year’s World Cup will further accelerate.

The powerhouse U.S. team will be favourites to lift the trophy for the third tournament in a row at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on Aug. 20 next year.

But there were some good news for co-hosts Australia on Wednesday.

Matilda Ellie Carpenter was at the Sydney celebration and confirmed she was on schedule to be fit to play in the tournament after sustaining a serious knee injury on club duty in France in May.

The defensive mainstay said she was thrilled at the prospect of playing in the showpiece of the women’s game in her own country.

“I think this is going to be one of the biggest events,” she said. “So, I’m very happy to be a part of it … and here on home soil, there’s nothing better.”

The Unity Pitch will tour each of the host cities over the next year, while Samoura will later turn on a light display featuring the tournament logo on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.

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

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