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Soccer Ferns players celebrate. Photo / photo sport
New Zealand will host Fifa for the first time next year with the first Women’s World Cup qualifying playoff tournament to be held in the country.
You could call it a mini World Cup
10 nations will converge in Auckland (North Harbor Stadium) and Hamilton (Waikato Stadium) to determine the final three qualifying spots for the tournament.
Two teams from Asia, Africa, South America, North and Central America (Concacaf) will take part, along with a European side and the top representative from Oceania.
The event, to be played from February 17-23, follows Fifa’s decision to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams.
It offers another chance for teams who miss direct qualification and is an ideal test of the country’s training and stadium facilities, as well as a host of other logistical matters.
Probably the biggest bonus is that the Football Ferns will play three games at home to coincide with the event, against the top seeded team and another yet to be confirmed host nation.
It’s a rare opportunity for the Ferns on these shores and the simultaneous camp scenario will be invaluable ahead of the actual World Cup (July 20th).
Thailand and Chinese Taipei are the first two confirmed nations for the playoff tournament.
The other teams will be decided in continental tournaments this month, apart from the European representative who will be announced in October.
The format features two groups of three teams and one group of four teams.
In the smaller group, the seeded team meets the winner of a knockout game between the other two countries for a World Cup spot. The other group has two semi-finals and then a decider, with the top two teams meeting in the final.
“The decision in 2019 to expand the FIFA Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams has already had a significant impact on the overall growth and development of women’s football,” said Sarai Bareman, Fifa’s Chief Women’s Football Officer. “More nations now have a chance to play on the biggest stage in the world and it all starts with the playoff tournament.”
In addition to the hosts New Zealand and Australia, nine teams have already secured their places at the Women’s World Cup.
China, Japan, Korea Republic, Philippines and Vietnam qualified from Asia, with France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark being confirmed first of 11 European nations.
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