Opinion

Women's World Cup is a godsend that must not go to waste

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Australia has been presented with a rare opportunity to turbo-charge the game of football at all levels after comfortably winning the right to stage the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

This golden chance for future generations however will be lost unless Football Federation Australia learns from the mistakes of the post-2015 Asian Cup period and works on ensuring that the 32-team tournament leaves a lasting legacy.

The Socceroos' triumph on home soil five years ago was expected to usher an era of health and prosperity within our game but for several reasons it just did not pan out that way.

The Asian Cup was an unequivocal success on all fronts and it was supposed to grow the game in numbers and unite the reluctant stakeholders but when the euphoria surrounding the Socceroos' first-ever major honour dissipated the game went back to its old ways of politics, greed, mistrust and confrontation.

As has been the case on so many occasions, football suffered considerable damage after its administrators took their eyes off the ball.

Instead of progress we had regress. Which probably was due in part to the fact that the people who helped create the memorable tournament that exceeded all expectations were let go by FFA and were therefore unable to take the next step and maximise the high level of interest in the game generated prior to and during the event, particularly from Australia's massive multicultural community.

Head office did not have the time, the people or the money to invest in the game's future on the back of the Asian Cup success. Another opportunity lost, basically.

So today's uplifting news will be seen by the new administration not only as a godsend and a morale booster but also as a chance to right a wrong.

The women's World Cup in three years will be much bigger than the men's Asian Cup.

Australia will be the centre of the football world for almost six weeks when it holds the biggest party in our game's history and the Matildas, who will never get a better chance of winning the biggest prize in women's football, will be cheered all the way.

If Sam Kerr's Matildas could waltz into the semi-finals they would meet the least of our expectations.

And if they were to win the whole thing, well, that would put the icing on the cake, wouldn't it?

That's not enough, however. It is vital for the whole game's development in this part of the world that a legacy is left when all is said and done.

Australia should make some serious money from gate takings, provided the Matildas go far in the tournament, so it is important that this be invested wisely and with foresight.

The 64-match event will comprise eight four-team groups to be split equally between the two host countries.

Pending FIFA approval, the Ferns will kick off the tournament at Eden Park in Auckland on 10 July while the Matildas will make their bow a day later at Stadium Australia in Sydney. Both matches will be stand-alone fixtures.

The Australians are expected to play their three group matches in separate venues.

The top two teams in each group will go into the round of 16, with five of the eight ties to be played in Australia.

Three quarter-finals, one semi-final, the match for third place and the final will be played in Australia, the deciding match set for Stadium Australia on 20 August.

The 13 venues

Australia (8): Stadium Australia, Sydney; Football Stadium, Sydney; AAMI Park, Melbourne; Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane; Optus Stadium, Perth; Coopers Stadium, Adelaide; McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle; and York Park, Launceston.

New Zealand (5): Eden Park, Auckland; Sky Stadium, Wellington; Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch; FMG Stadium, Hamilton; and Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.