WHEN the Women’s World Cup is co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023 it will be the first FIFA world championship to be staged Down Under in 30 years.
The last FIFA event to to be held in Australia was the World Youth Championship, which was staged in March, 1993, and involved 16 of the best under-20 teams in the world – hosts Australia, Colombia, Russia, Cameroon; Portugal, Germany, Uruguay, Ghana; South Korea, England, Turkey, USA; Mexico, Norway, Brazil, Saudi Arabia.
The tournament was played in five cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide. Perth was not considered, and it was also overlooked when Australia also played hosts to the World Youth event in 1981 (On that occasion the young Aussies lost 1-0 to eventual champions West Germany in the quarter-finals).
The 1993 final, and third place play-off, was held as a double header in front of 40,000 at the Sydney Football Stadium on March 20.
Australia, after losing 2-0 to eventual champions Brazil in the semi-finals, were involved in the third place play-off against a much-vaunted England team, which included future stars in Nick Barmby, Nicky Butt, David Unsworth, Chris Bart-Williams and Julian Joachim, who scored the winner in England’s 2-1 victory over the Young Socceroos.
The Aussie side included three bright talents from WA – Perth Italia trio Tony Carbone, Marc Wingell and Vince Matassa. Another West Australian, Vas Kalogeracos, had been in the initial squad but was not involved in the final selection.
Carbone had made world history a week earlier when he headed home the winner in the 2-1 quarter-final triumph over Uruguay in the 99th minute of extra time, becoming the first player to score a Golden Goal under FIFA’s newly-introduced rule to decide deadlocked ties.
Australia’s top scorer in the tournament with three goals was Ante Milicic, who tied for the most goals scored by an individual with six others – Brazil duo Gian and Adriano, Ghana’s Augustine Ahinful, Mexico’s Vicente Nieto, USA’s Chris Faklaris and Colombia’s Henry Zambrano, who, rather mysteriously, was presented with the Golden Shoe as the championship’s top scorer. Columbia didn’t progress beyond the group stages, but Zambrano was the only one of the top seven scorers to hit two in one game.
Milicic, coincidentally, is now coach of the Matildas. He led them to qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games (now postponed until 2021), and will presumably still be at the coaching helm when Australia compete in the 2023 World Cup finals.
The tournament, which will take place between July and August 2023, will be scheduled across 12 cities in Australia and New Zealand, with the opening match to be played at Eden Park in Auckland and the final in Sydney.
Matches will be held in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle and Launceston in Australia, and in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Dunedin in New Zealand.
Perth campaigned strongly to be one of the cities for the group stages. An upgraded HBF Park will be the main venue, as Optus Stadium will not be in the mix owing to a clash with Australian Rules fixtures.
It will be the first time that the FIFA Women’s World Cup has been held in the Southern Hemisphere – and it will be the first time that 32 countries will compete in the finals. This is an increase from 24 in the 2019 finals, which were held in France.
The Matildas, who were strongly fancied to do well in France, qualified from their group but were knocked out in the Round of 16 on penalties by Norway after the contest had finished deadlocked at 1-1.
The Aussies had been quarter-finalists in 2015 in Canada (losing a close tie 1-0 to Japan), in 2011 in Germany (going down 3-1 to Sweden) and in 2007 in China (downed 3-2 by Brazil).
The Matildas, however, can already boast an international crown, having won the Asian Cup in 2010, beating North Korea on penalties in the final in China. The game had gone to a shoot-out after a 1-1 draw, in which WA’s Sam Kerr got Australia’s goal. Kerr is, of course, now captain of the Matildas.
The Aussies have also been runners-up in the Asian Cup in 2006, 2014 and 2018.
The victory in China, incidentally, gave the Matildas the distinction of becoming the first ever national team to win titles in two different confederations, having also triumphed in the Oceania Women’s Nations Cup three times.