England vs Spain: Historic Women's World Cup Final and Record Finale
England and Spain are set to face off in an eagerly anticipated showdown in the final match of the Women's World Cup, marking the culmination of an extraordinary tournament that has not only shattered attendance and television records but has also kindled aspirations for a significant surge in interest and support for women's soccer.
This ninth edition of the prestigious global event, which has been jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, stands out as a historic milestone, being the very first World Cup held in the southern hemisphere. Notably, it has already achieved a remarkable feat by breaking previous records for attendance.
The initial enthusiasm of local fans in Australia dimmed slightly after the host nation's exit during the semi-finals. Nonetheless, a staggering two million soccer enthusiasts are projected to have attended matches across the nine host cities by the time the final match takes place at Stadium Australia in Sydney, scheduled for 8 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Sunday.
The semi-final match between Australia and England that took place on Wednesday was a gripping spectacle, attracting an average of 7.13 million viewers on the channels of the local broadcaster Seven Network. This impressive viewership figure, provided by research firm OzTAM, constitutes the highest-ever recorded viewership for the network since its inception in 2001.
The anticipation for this tournament was palpable, with matches featuring the Matildas being sold out months in advance. As the event has progressed, organizers have high hopes that the average attendance will exceed 30,000 once all 64 matches are concluded.
Comparing this Women's World Cup to its predecessor held in France four years ago, where over 1.1 million fans attended 52 matches, the current tournament has achieved an average crowd of 21,756 per game. The interest in New Zealand was more subdued due to their team's early exit during the group stages. However, some of the matches involving the White Ferns managed to break records for soccer attendance in the country, despite FIFA distributing thousands of tickets to ensure a respectable turnout.
At a more granular level, the players of the Australian national team are poised to receive substantial prize money following their notable performance in the tournament. In contrast to the A$750 ($480) they earned for reaching the quarter-finals in 2015, each player will now take home $165,000. This demonstrates a substantial increase in recognition and compensation for their achievements.
Nevertheless, despite these achievements, Matildas striker Sam Kerr voiced the necessity for greater investment in the development and grassroots of the sport. Highlighting the need for funding across various domains, she emphasized that bolstering resources is essential for nurturing and expanding the sport's foundation.
The remarkable journey of the Matildas during this World Cup has spurred a movement advocating for increased support for women's soccer in Australia. This push comes as women's soccer competes for attention in a country where other sporting codes such as rugby league and Australian rules football enjoy greater popularity.
Responding to these calls, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged a substantial A$200 million investment in women's sports. This funding is intended to enhance sports facilities catering to women and girls, with soccer expected to receive substantial financial backing. Additionally, the government aims to ensure that women's sporting events are accessible through free-to-air television, addressing concerns over a perceived paywall for many World Cup matches.
Both England and Spain, the finalists of this tournament, have encountered unique challenges on their journey to the final match. England, the birthplace of soccer, only permitted women to access official facilities in 1970, and the women's team has historically faced a gap in both interest and funding when compared to the men's team. However, recent successes like the Lionesses' victory in the European championship have started to transform this landscape.
Meanwhile, the Spanish team has had to grapple with internal disputes involving coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish football federation. This turmoil has led to the absence of some of their key players from the tournament.
As the Women's World Cup finale approaches, the world awaits an exciting and historic clash between two determined teams, with both England and Spain vying for their first world title on Sunday in Sydney.