As the formal bid for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup closes this Friday, South Africa has sensationally withdrawn from the race, opening the way for Australia and New Zealand who have now merged their bids into one.

With that, the competition is set to go ‘Down Under’, a colloquialism that refers to Australia and New Zealand.

It comes from the fact that these two countries are located in the Southern Hemisphere, ‘below’ many other countries on the globe.

South Africa’s withdrawal came less than 24 hours to the deadline for submitting bid books.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) claimed it wants to focus on improving the women’s game, particularly the fledgling national league, before bidding for another international tournament,

But SAFA has been in dispute recently with South Africa’s Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa, whose support they would need to secure Government guarantees.

South Africa as a country is also facing economic problems.

“We resolved that as an Association we should not proceed with the bid,” SAFA acting chief executive Hay Mokoena told Reuters.

“We want to strengthen our women’s national league first before we invite the world to come and play.

“Definitely, we will consider doing 2027 and we think, by that time, we will have a stronger women’s league and a much stronger women’s national team.”

Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, have decided to join forces in their bid to host the 2023 women’s tournament after reaching an 11th-hour agreement before tomorrow’s deadline. 

The joint bid is proposing to host the final of the quadrennial international women’s tournament in Sydney, at the newly renovated 75,000 capacity ANZ Stadium in the Olympic Park.

The Football Federation Association had recently abandoned plans to submit a standalone bid for the competition as it believes, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that the best chance to beat the bids from Japan and Colombia was to join forces with its neighbour New Zealand. 

FIFA’s decision to expand the tournament from 24 to 32 teams was apparently not a factor, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) has also confirmed they have submitted their bid. 

“We don’t want to one-up other bids, and we don’t want to compare ourselves to other bids,” JFA President Kozo Tashima told the Japan Times. 

“We’ve submitted a bid that contains the best tournament Japan can run.

“Between next year’s Olympics, the professionalisation of the women’s league from 2021 and this Women’s World Cup, we want to give a significant boost to women’s soccer and that is why this bid is so important.

“With Japan’s proven ability to host international tournaments and our spirit of omotenashi (hospitality), we want to put on a Women’s World Cup that will bring joy not only to participating nations, but to us as hosts.”

Japan’s bid features eight stadiums, including the recently completed National Stadium and seven football-specific venues.

Those sites include the new Kyoto Stadium, which will serve as the home of the J. League’s Kyoto Sanga from 2020, and Rugby World Cup hosts Sapporo Dome, Toyota Stadium and Kobe Misaki Stadium.

Saitama Stadium, another Tokyo Olympic venue, as well as Sendai Stadium and Suita Stadium also made the list.

“FIFA requested a tournament with eight venues, and adding one more would increase costs significantly,” Tashima said. 

“We’re a small country and can take advantage of our transit system, including the bullet train and air routes. 

“With eight stadiums we can run a smooth tournament and keep our costs down.”

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and possibly South Korea – maybe in a joint bid with North Korea – are the other interested parties, with the successful candidate due to be announced in May.

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