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World Cup play-off tournament confirmed for NZ in February - could Ireland be there?

The Girls In Green are in a favourable position in their qualifying group, but a long, and convoluted, road lies ahead.

Ireland currently occupy the play-off spot in Group A of Uefa qualifying.
Ireland currently occupy the play-off spot in Group A of Uefa qualifying.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SHOULD THE REPUBLIC of Ireland women’s national team secure a play-off in 2023 World Cup qualifying, they could be heading for New Zealand in February.

It was confirmed yesterday that the first-ever Fifa Women’s World Cup play-off tournament will be played in Hamilton and Auckland from 17 to 23 February 2023.

10 teams will compete for the final three qualifying spots for the tournament, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand next summer, at Waikato Stadium and North Harbour Stadium.

Vera Pauw’s side are currently second in Group A of Uefa/European qualification ahead of a decisive September double-header against Finland and Slovakia.

A win over the Finns at Tallaght Stadium on 1 September should seal their progression, with a convoluted play-off route to follow thereafter.

While the winners of the nine qualifying groups — in Ireland’s case, Sweden — progress directly to next summer’s finals, the group runners-up get stuck into play-offs from October.

The three best second-place finishers will be seeded directly to Round Two. The six remaining runners-up contest three single-leg play-offs in Round One.

The three winners from Round One and the three teams seeded directly to Round Two will then compete in single-leg play-offs, determined by a draw.

The two play-off winners with the highest ranking (based on results in the qualifying group stage and Round Two play-offs) will qualify for the World Cup.

The remaining play-off winner will compete in the New Zealand tournament, or inter-confederation play-offs, in February.

The 10 participating teams will come from Asia (two – Chinese Taipei and Thailand have already qualified), Africa (two), North and Central America and the Caribbean (two), South America (two), Europe (one) and Oceania (one).

“The decision in 2019 to expand the Fifa Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams, has already had a significant impact on the wider growth and development of the women’s game,” Fifa Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman said yesterday.

“More nations now have the chance to play on the world’s biggest stage and this all starts with the play-off tournament. I cannot wait for fans to get their first taste of what to expect later next year when the play-off commences before the biggest women’s sporting event in the world kicks-off in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand on 20 July 2023.”

It was also confirmed that New Zealand’s Football Ferns will play three friendly matches around the play-off tournament, against the top-seeded team involved and another high-profile guest team which is still to be confirmed.

Gavin Cooney
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France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark from Europe, and China PR, Japan, Korea Republic, Philippines and Vietnam from Asia, have already secured their place at the 2023 World Cup, where they’ll join the co-host nations, Australia and New Zealand.

The finals will run from 20 July to 20 August, and should the Girls In Green qualify, it would be their first-ever major tournament.

For now, they’ll watch Euro 2022, which kicks off in England tomorrow, from afar.

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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