Australia and New Zealand are now hot favourites to be named joint hosts later this week for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with rivals Japan pulling out of contention to stage the event.
Japan on Monday officially ended its bid to host the tournament, leaving Colombia as the only other country now in contention.
The Japan Football Association (JFA) confirmed its withdrawal from the process in a press conference on Monday evening.
The FIFA Council will make its decision on the host in an online meeting and open vote on Thursday, with an announcement expected in the early hours of Friday, Australian time.
Japan Football Association has decided on 22 June, to withdraw from the Bid to host the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™.
— jfa_en (@jfa_en) June 22, 2020
On the surface, Japan’s withdrawal and subsequent backing of its former rival bid hands a clear advantage to Australia and New Zealand.
Like Australia, Japan is a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and it would appear likely that AFC votes previously split between the competing bids will now go to Australia/New Zealand.
The Oceania Football Confederation, of which New Zealand is a member, has already publicly endorsed the joint bid, with the Southeast Asian ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) recently following suit.
Last week Australia and New Zealand received the highest score in FIFA’s technical evaluation of the three bids.
The joint bid scored 4.1 out of five in the report, with Japan awarded 3.9 and Colombia trailing on 2.8.
Australia received higher scores than Colombia in all technical criterion.
This week, the hosts for the 2023 @FIFAWWC will be revealed!
Who's excited? https://t.co/4qJeDEaoKQ
— Football Federation Australia (@FFA) June 21, 2020
South American Football Federation (CONMEBOL) president Alejandro Dominguez and Colombian Football Federation president Ramon Jesurun wrote to FIFA to object to the Colombia bid’s evaluation score, but FIFA stood by its report.
Brazil withdrew from the running earlier this month, leaving Colombia as the only South American country in the running.
In its guide to the bidding process, FIFA emphasised its commitment to “conduct an open, ethical and thorough bidding process” to select the host, which includes an open vote.