Women’s World Cup 2023: Tournament in Australia and New Zealand to get under way

The waiting is almost over. The biggest Fifa Women’s World Cup – featuring European champions England and debutants the Republic of Ireland – will finally get under way on Thursday.

Australia and New Zealand are co-hosting the ninth edition, which for the first time will feature 32 nations including defending world champions the United States.

It is the first Women’s World Cup with two co-hosts.

New Zealand launch the tournament against Norway at Eden Park (08:00 BST kick-off) before Australia play the Republic of Ireland at Stadium Australia, Sydney, on the same day (11:00 kick-off).

But what should have been a day of celebration of women’s sport was overshadowed by an early morning shooting in Auckland, which left two people plus the gunman dead, and six others injured.

Supporters getting ready to head to a fan park near the waterfront, which was close to the incident, expressed their shock and sadness at the news.

Fifa said the tournament would proceed as normal and organisers hope the opening two games will attract an aggregate crowd of 100,000 fans.

It is on course to be the most-watched Women’s World Cup, with more than 1.3 million tickets bought in advance for the 64 matches at 10 venues across nine cities.

Organisers are targeting a record two billion television viewers for the 2023 edition, a figure that would double the audience that watched the 2019 World Cup in France.

“The future is women. Thanks to the fans for supporting what will be the greatest Fifa Women’s World Cup ever,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

As well as the Republic of Ireland, seven other nations are making their debuts at this World Cup – Vietnam, Zambia, Haiti, Morocco, Panama, the Philippines and Portugal.

While the United States – who are chasing a fifth world title – are the number one side in the world, Zambia lie 77th and are the lowest ranked team at the tournament.

The final takes place at Stadium Australia on 20 August (11:00 kick-off).