On the face of it, the news that Brazil has dropped out of the race to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a boost to the chances of Australia and New Zealand getting the nod from FIFA on June 25.
After all, there are now just three contenders instead of four and Australia no longer has to battle it out with the host of the 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympics and a genuine football superpower.
Now, only Colombia and Japan are left. In a normal scenario, this would increase the odds of the joint bid coming out triumphant, but these situations are rarely normal.
Brazil has been hit hard by the coronavirus and felt that the public and private financial support was not there to go forward.
“Because of the fiscal and economic austerity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, (the government) thought it would not be recommended to right now sign the guarantees asked for by FIFA,” the Brazilian federation said on Tuesday (AEST).
It may well be that finances and political support are the reason but it also could easily be that there are other factors behind the decision.
Perhaps the country knew, or was told, it could not win and that South America’s only chance was to bow out and support Colombia.
Whatever the reason, the most important part of the Brazilian federation’s statement was that it would go on to support Colombia.
This may not be the best news.
There is no doubt that the joint bid from down under ticks plenty of boxes and is generally regarded as the best but, as many know, politics play a major part in voting and will do so again when the 37-member FIFA council makes its decision.
Australia, with its relatively recent experience of bidding for the 2022 men’s World Cup, needs little reminding of that. Nothing can be taken for granted.
Regional preferences and alliances play their part. South America now has a bid to unify behind. Asia does not.
If any bidder gets a simple majority of the 37 votes in the first round then it is game over.
If Australia and New Zealand are in a straight battle with Colombia, the smart money is on Sydney and Wellington but what if that straight battle never materialises?
What if the two AFC giants take support from each other in the opening round of voting and allow Colombia to sneak in and do what needs to be done?
If, and it is an ‘if’, CONCAFAF to the north falls in line with its southern partner, which offers ease of travel and timezones, then Colombia is looking strong indeed.
That would leave it needing to hoover up around half of the votes from the crucial European and African members, then it will be home and dry in the first round.
At the very least, having a continent united gives Colombia a solid foundation. If no bidder collects the requisite number of votes in the first round then the bid with the lowest number is eliminated.
Brazil’s decision means Colombia has a better chance of surviving the first round which means that it increases the chance that one of the other two bids will fall at the first hurdle.
Japan was always the problem for Australia, not Colombia or Brazil. Oceania will support them but that is not enough. Asia will be split, at best.
Japan is confident of strong Asian support.
Just last week the JFA unveiled one of its weapons in the race, a new professional women’s league that will kick off next year.
The WE League will become the top tier and there are plans in place to ensure that inside three years - by the time the World Cup would take place - half the staff of the league’s teams will be female.
This may have an effect or it may not but it is a sign that we are entering the crucial stage.
If Japan had been the one to pull out, that really would be something to celebrate but the champagne corks should stay where they are for now.