FIFA president Gianni Infantino urged fans to “seize the moment” Wednesday and snap up Women’s World Cup tickets, with the opening match yet to sell out on the eve of the tournament.
There have long been concerns about sales in New Zealand, which will stage the opening game on Thursday when the co-hosts face Norway at the 50,000-capacity Eden Park in Auckland.
Australia play the Republic of Ireland in the second game on Thursday in a sell-out at Sydney’s Stadium Australia, which can hold about 80,000 fans.
FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura said that 1.375 million tickets have been sold for the month-long tournament, surpassing the figure for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
That tournament had 24 teams, compared to 32 for the upcoming one.
As of late Wednesday, tickets were still available on FIFA’s official website for almost all World Cup matches, including New Zealand’s clash with former champions Norway and both semi-finals.
“My only message that I want to get out here is seize the moment, be proud of what you have been able to achieve here, in New Zealand, in Australia,” Infantino told reporters in Auckland.
“Be proud of what will be the biggest event — not just sports event — that has been organised here so far,” he added at a press conference that was far more low key than his interventions at last year’s men’s World Cup in Qatar.
“Today I feel tired because I just landed, but I feel very happy,” he said in a playful nod to a controversial speech he delivered in Doha when he claimed to feel “gay”, “disabled” and “a migrant worker”.
Sitting alongside Infantino — who was more reserved than usual — Samoura said FIFA had reached its “expectation in terms of numbers” of tickets sold.
“However, we still have tickets available for some matches so my only plea is don’t wait until the last moment,” she added.
While Australia, led by one of the world’s best players in Sam Kerr, are hoping to make the most of home advantage to go far at the tournament, New Zealand’s aims are much more modest.
The Football Ferns, ranked 26th in the world, have never won a match in any of their five previous appearances at the World Cup.
“Our goal is pretty clear. We want to win our first World Cup match. We want to make it out of the group,” captain Ali Riley said ahead of meeting a Norway side featuring former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg.
Also in Group A are debutants the Philippines and Switzerland.
Australia’s captain Kerr, the unofficial face of the tournament, is relishing playing in front of a packed house against the Irish in Sydney.
The Matildas are among the favourites and in ominous form.
“We are really confident, but for us it’s just about the first game,” said the prolific Chelsea striker.
“Right now we are playing that game with no other game in mind, so that’s our final at this point.”
The United States, who are aiming to win an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup and fifth overall, begin their campaign against minnows Vietnam in Auckland on Saturday.
The biggest challenge to the reigning champions is expected to come from last year’s Euro winners England, who start against Haiti on Saturday.
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