By Sedara Philip
Spain defeated England 1-0 in the final of the Women’s World Cup on Sunday, capping off a tournament that has broken attendance and TV records and raised hopes of a surge in interest for the women’s game.
Co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the ninth edition of the global showpiece event was the first to be held in the southern hemisphere.
While local interest ebbed when Australia exited in the semi-finals, just shy of two million fans will have passed through the gates in nine host cities after Sunday’s final crowd of 75,784 is added to the tally.
An Olga Carmona goal was the difference between the two sides in a pulsating game that saw Spain create the majority of the clear-cut chances.
Thousands of fans milled around Stadium Australia in Sydney hours before kick-off on Sunday, with troupes of drummers and stilt walkers creating a festival atmosphere.
England and Spain were both making their first appearance at a Women’s World Cup final, while England’s wait for a first trophy since the men’s tournament in 1966 goes on.
Australia’s semi-final loss to England on Wednesday drew an average of 7.13 million viewers on the channels of local broadcaster Seven Network, the highest viewership ever recorded by research firm OzTAM, which launched in 2001.
Matildas matches sold out months in advance, and organisers expect the average attendance to overtake 30,000 once all 64 matches are completed.
The last Women’s World Cup in France four years ago attracted more than 1.1. million fans to 52 matches with an average crowd of 21,756.
Demand was weaker in New Zealand, whose team went out in the group stages. FIFA gave away thousands of tickets and some games attracted as few as 7,000 fans, although White Ferns matches broke records for a soccer crowd in the country.