Australia-NZ set to win rights to host World Cup

The joint bid from Australia and New Zealand appears set to win the rights to host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup after their nearest rival withdrew their bid.

The Japanese Football Association has announced that Japan is withdrawing its bid, just days before football's world governing body holds a vote to determine the successful candidate.

Following an executive board meeting on Monday, the JFA withdrew its candidacy and decided to support the Australia/New Zealand bid which will go up against a bid from Colombia.

Earlier this month, FIFA rated the joint Australia/New Zealand bid as the best to host the tournament, with Japan in second place.

The JFA said a key factor behind their decision was losing the support of the Southeast Asian ASEAN Football Federation, which publicly said it would support the Australia/New Zealand bid.

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games now being delayed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the JFA said it found it unlikely one country would be awarded women's football's two biggest tournaments back-to-back.

JFA chairman Kozo Tashima left the door open for another bid in the future.

"We have shown how we could host the tournament in Japan in our bid, so I don't think our efforts were in vain," he said.

Japan's withdrawal leaves the Australia/New Zealand bid in pole position ahead of Thursday night's vote.

Like Australia, Japan is a member of the Asian Football Confederation so it is likely that AFC votes previously shared between the competing bids will now go to Australia/New Zealand.

Japan has never staged the Women's World Cup but co-hosted the men's event in 2002 with neighbours South Korea.

The Japanese women's team won the World Cup in 2011, shocking favourites the United States in the final.

The 2019 tournament in France broke records in terms of television audiences and was seen as the most high-profile edition so far.