In partnership with Media City Qatar. The sun has set on what has been an extraordinary women's World Cup down under.
The curtain has come down on a fantastic FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Spain are first-time world champions after a scintillating final performance against England in Sydney. They join Germany as the only countries to have won the men's and women's FIFA World Cups in history.
The tournament will be remembered forever and is a huge step forward for the women's game. Record match attendance and TV viewing figures proved that interest is at an all-time high.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has delivered two World Cup tournaments within nine months. He told Football Now that it's been a successful year, and he is proud of the efforts of all those involved.
"This 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup has simply been the best ever. Great atmosphere and full stadiums. In the streets, everywhere, the people have been joyful and happy. Australia and New Zealand have been fantastic hosts. Across the world, 2 billion viewers. In the stadiums, 2 million spectators. Many, many records were broken. We had results that we couldn't expect. Eight newcomers. A new world champion. I mean, what do you want more?"
Australia and New Zealand have done an incredible job welcoming all the fans. This tournament has boosted football's popularity, without a doubt. Traditionally, the Oceania region are keen Rugby enthusiasts. However, almost 40% of the New Zealand population tuned in to watch the opening game. Moments like this make a world stand still and make a World Cup truly special.
Another stand-out moment was the quarter-finals, Australia against France. Goalless after 120 minutes of high-quality football. The deciding penalty shootout was the longest and most dramatic in history. Australia took the match with a 7 - 6 win.
Cortnee Vine took the winning penalty to send the Matildas to the semi-finals. It felt like a watershed moment for the sport down under. On social media, videos showed fans celebrating like never before in that part of the world.
Craig Foster, a former Australian international captain, spoke to Football Now about the tournament's magnitude and the significance for Australians.
"For the first time ever, Australia is saying, 'We love this, we love this feeling'. It's brought us together. We've won everything else, and now it's time to take on the world at its own game." Craig concluded.
Spain's journey to the World Cup was not without controversy. Internal squad conflicts hampered preparations for this tournament. All eyes were on manager Jorge Vilda, in charge since 2015, when 15 of his senior players went on strike. He shifted his focus to the team's younger players. Still, he kept his midfield covered with Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí. With her skill, maturity, and a month of excellent performances, Aitana has been named Player of the Tournament.
Early in the competition, we said goodbye to game legends Brazil's Marta Vieira da Silva and the USA's Megan Rapinoe. Both will be remembered for their inspiring careers and contributions to women's football on and off the pitch. Brazil failed to make it out of the group stages. While Rapinoe missed a crucial penalty in the US’ Round of 16 game with Sweden, resigning the former champions to an early shock exit.
We saw fantastic performances from the African teams. Many entered the tournament as the underdogs, but South Africa, Nigeria and Morocco gave a solid challenge to the heavyweights along the way. The progress made on the pitch was also coupled with moments of cultural significance, as Nouhaila Benzina became the first player ever to wear the hijab at a World Cup.
The sun has set on what has been an extraordinary women's World Cup. There is a new name on the trophy as Spain cements their place in history as the FIFA 2023 Women's World Cup title holders. It is one that will live long in the memory of fans worldwide.
The next tournament edition is in 2027, but the location is yet to be announced. It is clear that Women's football has established itself as an heavyweight force in international sport.