Trio celebrate breakthrough success to round out biggest-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup field!

Three new nations – Haiti, Portugal and Panama – will feature at the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time after successfully securing qualification at the first-ever Play-Off Tournament held this week in New Zealand.

The trio’s qualification rounds out the 32-nation line-up for Australia & New Zealand 2023. Notably the addition of three new faces means a quarter of the newly-expanded 32-nation field in Australia & New Zealand will be debuting at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The expansion and participation of new nations reflects positively on FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy and the focused efforts to grow women’s football on and off the field.

For Haiti, Portugal and Panama qualification provides not only a massive boost to domestic women’s football, but is a cause for huge celebrations across each nation.

Haiti became the first of the three nations to qualify for Australia & New Zealand 2023 with an impressive 2-1 win over 2019 finalists Chile in Auckland / Tamaki Makaurau on Wednesday.

For Haiti, qualification is particularly poignant. The Caribbean Island nation, which has suffered from devastating earthquakes over the past decade, last featured on football’s most elite stage at senior level 49 years ago at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

“The path leading to this historic qualification has been perilous,” said Vice-President of the Normalisation Committee of the Haitian Football Federation, Monique Andre. “Despite difficulties in our country, and despite multiple obstacles of various kinds, we were able to overcome adversity to achieve an unprecedented feat in Haitian women’s football.”

“Les Grenadieres deserve this qualification and I have absolutely no doubt that the adventure has only just begun. We are proud of the team, we congratulate them and we would like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts for giving our country, and our supporters, a much needed breath of fresh air. We would also like to acknowledge everyone who contributed in one way or another to this feat.”

Later on Wednesday in Hamilton / Kirikiriroa it was Portugal’s turn to taste breakthrough success. Diana Silva scored a history-making 94th-minute winner as Portugal held off Cameroon 2-1 to finally reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup, following a lengthy European qualification route and eight previous attempts to qualify.

After concerted efforts to grow women’s football in Portugal, the FA hope this will be an inspirational and landmark moment for the local game.

“This is a stunning and deserved achievement for the Portuguese players who have created history for their nation’s women’s football . The girls will surely be an inspiration to female players across Portugal and will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy for future generations.” said Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer.

Panama are also heading to the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time, an achievement that matches the nation’s men’s debut qualification for the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Lineth Cedeno was the player whose name will forever be associated with the milestone achievement, with her smart second-half header enough to overcome Paraguay and kick-start wild celebrations.

“It is our first time at a FIFA Women’s World Cup so it is important for us,” said Panamanian Football Association President Manuel Arias. “The girls deserved it and they worked so hard for a long time to be here. I am so happy for them and for the effort they put in.”

“FIFA’s efforts in contributing to growing the FIFA Women’s World Cup and women’s football in our country have been invaluable,” said Panamanian Football Association President Manuel Arias. “We will make sure that we continue to make FIFA and our football fans back home proud later this year.”

The inaugural edition of the Play-Off Tournament for the FIFA Women’s World Cup proved to be a resounding success with colourful crowds and high-level competition.

“Congratulations to the three final teams on their qualification for Australia & New Zealand 2023,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. “It is particularly encouraging to see three new teams qualify and reflects the strong work FIFA continues to do to help develop women’s football in all corners of the globe.

“New Zealand has been a warm and welcoming host and I can’t wait to return both here and also to Australia in July and August. The quality of football over the past week has underlined again to me that we will go ‘ Beyond Greatness’ in 2023.”

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