FIFA have given Oceania 1 direct and 1 playoff spot for the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Cup. The reactions are mixed in Oceania.
In a statement released on Christmas eve, the international governing body of football, FIFA, revealed that the countries in Oceania will get 1 direct spot and 1 playoff spot for the expanded women’s World Cup in 2023.
The tournament is set to contain 32 teams and be held in both Australia and New Zealand.
But with New Zealand hosting the tournament, the direct qualification spot in the OFC will be given to the Kiwis as hosts. That means the other 10 member associations are left to fight it out for the final spot, that will give the second team a chance to qualify through an intercontinental playoff.
The football fans of Oceania may have been hoping for two direct spots to the World Cup, but it was not to be. Tahiti women’s head coach, Stéphanie Spielmann tells Football in Oceania she is disappointed.
“I understand the decision but yes we are disappointed. Every time it’s a battle for us to have funding and help for our preparation,” she says.
“OFC has only one spot and this one goes directly to New Zealand. So, we have to explain that to our girls and to our Exco (Executive committee, ed.) and pray for having all the support and the motivation to make a huge preparation, even if we know that it will be very hard for OFC’s countries.”
“Could not allow second team”
In Papua New Guinea, PNGFA President John Kapi Natto chooses to look at the news with a positive view.
“Firstly, I would like to welcome this great news from FIFA that OFC has been given a 1.5 spot which allows NZ to enter directly on behalf of OFC Nations and gives the minor opportunity for the 10 Nations to battle it out for the second spot to then find the winner for the Intercontinental play offs possibly against AFC (Asian Football Confederation, ed.),” Kapi Natto tells Football in Oceania.
He says every OFC nation now must “work seriously hard” to hopefully make the World Cup in three years time.
“FIFA in its right wisdom could not allow a direct second spot for Oceania into any Womens World Cup because our Oceania Countries besides NZ would not be fully ready and capable to compete,” Kapi Natto claims.
“And this is not a slap in our face but a great challenge that each countries in the Oceania must now work hard in establishing their own womens National League so that our Women are playing a regular competition so that they are preparing well ahead.”
“NZ should help others”
A Women’s league is already up and running in PNG, as well as in Tahiti. Another nation to have a women’s league is the Solomon Islands.
SIFF President William Lai says he thinks it is “fair” as the sport is “not that developed other than New Zealand”. But he would like the Kiwis to help their fellow Oceanian countries to get better.
“What I want to see is that NZ FA should help other nations in OFC to improve the standard. NZ FA being the biggest nation by far needs to do more to help the poorer nations of Oceania,” Lai tells Football in Oceania
He says he is happy that the World Cup is coming closer to their shores, but that he “is not sure” of the real impact.
“Only if NZ FA can do more to care to the women game to the other football mad country like Solomon Islands by giving more aid. Our women will grow faster and until then, 1.5 spot is good enough.”
Hopes for 2027
The assistance the member nations get from FIFA is also important in developing women’s football, says PNGFA President Kapi Natto.
“Oceania Football Confederation countries are very thankful to FIFA for their Financial Assistances into the Womens Football Development and its our sole responsibility to take it with honor and get to work to see if Oceania can get 0.5 spot in the world cup. It is going to be very tough but Oceania must work hard to prove to everyone wrong that yes in the future, we must be given two spots as a direct entry.”
He hopes a good showing from the second Oceania team in the playoffs, perhaps even making it to the World Cup, could see FIFA give them the full two spots for the World Cup in 2027.
“It’s tough but each country must take it as an opportunity of a lifetime. We may not reach our dream yet, but we must have the faith in our preparation. Oceania must convince FIFA that yes we can make a 2 spot in 2027 if we do well now.”
“Lastly, FIFA has not made it hard for us, but it has given us a new challenge that we must earn it. FIFA has assisted global women’s football financially and expect us to do well so that we should reach our dream and targets,” Kapi Natto says.