New Zealand Football have confirmed their joint bid for the 2023 World Cup — and the potential co-hosting arrangement with Australia is much more equal than might have been imagined.
In a media launch at Eden Park on Friday, NZF CEO Andrew Pragnell said that this country would stage approximately 45 per cent of the matches if the event comes down under.
This means that New Zealand would host four groups (out of eight) as well as a quarter final and a semi final.
At this stage there will be five host cities (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) and a stand alone opening game would also take place in this country, most likely at Eden Park.
That's a considerable boost.
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When the joint bid was first mooted a few months ago, most pundits predicted New Zealand might have one, or possibly two groups, as well as some knockout games, as Australia was seen as the senior partner, with their much larger population and network of massive stadia spread across a number of large cities.
But it hasn't panned out that way, and the proposal, which would be the first successful cross-confederation bid in Fifa history, is a genuine partnership.
As detailed in the Herald on Sunday last week, Fifa's decision in July to expand the event from 24 to 32 teams meant that the joint bid went from possible to probable.
New Zealand couldn't go solo, while Australia has gradually realized that their best chance of success was with a transtasman bid.
"When the bid expanded to 32 teams it became a compelling proposition to go together," said NZF CEO Andrew Pragnell. "It was always going to be a huge challenge, even for Australia, to go alone, and absolutely for us."
"We didn't have the infrastructure. I think we brought a lot to the table and Australia recognised that. It's been a really fluid conversation over the last few months but at the end of the day both parties realised it was the right thing to do."
New Zealand has built a strong working relationship with Fifa at an operational level, having hosted three age group World Cups (1999, 2008 and 2015), and has a good reputation in Zurich.
They also gained kudos for the ground breaking pay parity agreement in 2017.
Football Ferns midfielder Rosie White admitted it would be "a dream" to play a World Cup at home.
She started her career as a 15-year-old at the Under-17 World Cup in 2008, but said the senior event was "on another level".
Ferns legend Michelle Cox, who has been heavily involved in the women's game for decades, was buzzing at the news.
"It makes me so happy to see how far the game has come," said Cox. "The scale of the event is incredible now, look at what happened in France. To have that here on our doorstep is going to take the game to another level. It will be fantastic."
Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and South Korea have also submitted bids, with Japan and Brazil likely to be the strongest contenders alongside the Anzac bid.
Fifa's decision is expected to be made by May next year, and will come down to a vote by their 37-member executive council.