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Participants take part in the 'Unity Celebrations,' on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Sydney: Thousands of football fans marched over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Sunday to mark 25 days before the Women’s World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand.

Football’s governing body Fifa estimated around 4,000 braved chilly temperatures to take part in the early morning event on the famed bridge, which was temporarily closed to traffic.

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Artists perform during the event marking the 25-day countdown until the start of the Fifa Women's World Cup 2023, on the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

32-team tournament

Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand kick off the 32-team tournament on July 20 when the Matildas play Ireland in Sydney and the Football Ferns face Norway in Auckland.

Fifa says more than one million tickets have been sold for the 64 games in nine host cities, surpassing total sales for the 2019 World Cup in France.

Fifa official Rhiannon Martin told AFP she expected this year’s tournament would be a “milestone” for women’s football in Australia.

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Artists perform during the 'Unity Celebrations,' on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Women's football growing

“We’ve seen how women’s football has developed here over the last years,” added Martin, who is head of Fifa Women’s World Cup.

Fifa has said each player at the World Cup will earn at least $30,000, with the winners taking home $270,000 apiece.

Martin said the boost to the prize money pot showed that “women’s football is really being valued”.

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Artists perform on the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Bridging the gap

James Johnson, chief executive of Football Australia, told AFP it “starts to bridge the gap” between prize money for the men’s and women’s World Cup.

“We still have a bit of work to do over the next four years, but being the World Cup where the lift occurred makes us very proud,” he added.

Sundhage optimistic

Meanwhile, Brazil’s 63-year-old coach Pia Sundhage told the Associated Press at Brazil’s training center in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, that she liked their chances at this World Cup. “I truly believe the 10 best-ranked teams, like we are, do have a chance to go all the way,” Sundhage said. “USA, Germany, Sweden and England, they have a big chance to win.

“But look at Canada. They won an Olympic gold medal (in 2020) and they always come from behind. If you don’t have any injuries, you have a great team, you gain confidence by winning and having a little bit of luck.”

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Tazuni, official mascot of the Fifa Women's World Cup 2023, during the event in Sydney. Image Credit: AFP

Brazil squad on Tuesday

Sundhage will announce on Tuesday her World Cup squad, which has already been affected by injuries. Three that stand out have ruled out striker Ludmilla, put 37-year-old Marta at risk of starting from the bench, and cast doubts on midfielder Angelina.

“It is a team game, it is not one player that will win the World Cup. It will be the team and it will be a cohesive team,” Sundhage said.

The coach added some of the players she will pick “will be unstoppable” inside four years.

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From left: Former football players, USA's Joy Fawcett, Australia's Julie Dolan and and New Zealand's Maia Jackman take the stage during the 'Unity Celebrations. Image Credit: AFP

Right path

Sundhage knows Brazil fans will judge her on what happens in the World Cup but trusts she is on the right path. As to what happens after, she is unconcerned. The team’s best previous result was making the 2007 final, and losing to Germany.

“I am on a fantastic journey to the World Cup. Then another fantastic journey to the Olympics in France. And then I have no idea,” the coach said. “What matters is that I’m right here, right now.”