Women’s World Cup: Matildas reach knockouts as New Zealand set unwanted hosts performance record

Australia pulled off a stunning performance in their final group game at the FIFA WWC, defeating Canada 4-0 to advance to the knockout stages. In doing so, the Matildas avoid setting an unfortunate Women’s World Cup hosts record.

Knowing that they needed a win to avoid elimination, Australia truly delivered when it mattered. They flew out of the blocks, taking the lead after just nine minutes thanks to a smart finish from Hayley Raso.

Raso and the hosts then doubled their advantage from a corner just before the break.

Canada, now facing an early WWC exit themselves, made four changes at the interval to try and spark a comeback. However, this was unsuccessful, with Mary Fowler adding a third for Australia around the hour mark.

Steph Catley’s injury-time penalty was simply the cherry on top of a sublime game for the Matildas. The Olympic champions, meanwhile, will be devastated to be exiting the World Cup at the first hurdle.

Australia ultimately finishes top of Group B, with Nigeria taking the second qualification slot.

As a result of this brilliant turnaround in results, Australia have avoided an early elimination like their co-hosts, New Zealand, suffered.

New Zealand set unfortunate Women’s World Cup Hosts record

Sadly, the Football Ferns are out of their home event in the opening round. New Zealand’s third and final group game at the Women’s World Cup saw the hosts draw 0-0 with Switzerland.

This, coupled with Norway’s 6-0 drubbing of the Philippines, ensured that the co-hosts missed out on a spot in the Round of 16.

It had started positively for NZ as they began the tournament with a 1-0 win over Norway. But their loss to the Philippines on Matchday 2 ensured that Group A’s knockout places would go down to the wire.

Eventually, Norway’s superior goal difference proved the crucial factor.

With this group-stage elimination, New Zealand set a record for the earliest exit from a Women’s World Cup by any host/co-host in history. Before them, every single host nation had at least reached the knockout phase of their respective tournaments.

That is not to discredit the Football Ferns, though. With four points and two clean sheets, New Zealand had their best-ever FIFA WWC showing – something that fully needs applauding.

But in the context of the Women’s World Cup, New Zealand are now the lowest-performing hosts in competition history.

How has each host country performed at their respective World Cups in the past?

As mentioned before, all Women’s World Cup hosts had managed to keep home interest alive until the latter stages at every tournament before 2023. But even then, some have clearly been better than others.

The greatest home performance is, of course, the USA in 1999. They held the FIFA WWC in the States, where the USWNT responded by winning the whole tournament. This was America’s second triumph after winning the inaugural competition in 1991.

However, when they held the Women’s World Cup again in 2003, the US finished “only” third. This is still one of the top performances from a host nation, though.

Elsewhere, every other country that held the competition had reached the quarterfinal stage (until New Zealand). This was the second round until 2015 when expansion saw the Round of 16 first introduced.

Here is a handy table showing the hosts’ performances at each Women’s World Cup:

YearHostHost result
1991ChinaQF (second round)
1995SwedenQF (second round)
2003USAThird place
2007ChinaQF (second round)
2011GermanyQF (second round)
2015CanadaQF (third round)
2019FranceQF (third round)
2023Australia* & New ZealandRound of 16* (AUS) & Group stage (NZ)
*denotes active participation

So, whilst Australia can continue to enjoy home support as hosts, New Zealand is consigned to an unwanted piece of Women’s World Cup history.

Featured image credit: Getty