The count has begun for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which gets underway on Thursday morning in Oceania.
The ninth edition of the global showpiece will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand and will be the first Women’s World Cup hosted in the southern hemisphere.
It is also the first women’s world cup to have 32 nations taking part in the tournament.
The first match of the competition will see hosts New Zealand face Norway in Group A at 9am (South African time), while at 12pm (South African time) Australia will battle the Republic pf Ireland in Group B.
Speaking ahead of the competition, FIFA President Gianni Infantino urged the teams to take pride in making it to the tournament.
“My only message is seize the moment, be proud of what you have been able to achieve here. Be proud of what will be the biggest event that has been organised here (in Australia and New Zealand),” he said.
Africa’s hopes at the tournament will be carried by Nigeria (Group B), Zambia (Group C), South Africa (Group G), and Morocco (Group H).
Reigning Women’s Africa Cup of Nations champions, South Africa, will open their campaign on Sunday morning (9am SA time) against Sweden at the Wellington Regional Stadium in New Zealand.
Sweden is currently ranked at Number 3 in the world, while South Africa is at 54 in the latest FIFA rankings. The Europeans have the upper hand having won the friendly tie 3-0 back in January 2018.
The last time the two nations met was back in January 2019 in an international friendly that ended in a goalless draw.
Banyana Banyana played a warm-up match against Costa Rica, which they won 3-0 last week.
Speaking after that match, veteran defender Noko Matlou said they had taken some lessons from that game.
“We were giving balls away and when you play against Sweden once you make a mistake they’re going to punish you and we really have to work on that and rectify our mistakes.”
Written by: Ntsako Mukhari