The sixth-largest nation in the world by landmass, Australia’s name is derived from the ancient Latin term Terra Australis (Southern Land). Though Australia seems a young nation in terms of permanent European settlement (1788), Indigenous Australians have inhabited the continent for at least 65,000 years, with many studies indicating it to be the oldest civilisation in the world.
The nation is made up of six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and island state Tasmania) as well as two territories (Australian Capital Territory [ACT] and Northern Territory). The capital is Canberra which is based in the ACT, three hours south of Sydney. Australia is divided into three separate time zones.
A hugely diverse nation geographically and demographically, it is also home to numerous flora and fauna found only in Australia. Tropical rainforests dominate the north-east, deserts in the centre and while the nation is renowned for its warm weather, winter snowfields flourish in the Australian Alps and in Tasmania.
Natural landmarks include Uluru, Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park, while the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are renowned across the world. The coat of arms of Australia features a kangaroo and emu, and other internationally recognised Australian animals include the koala, platypus, echidna and wombat.
Significant levels of migration since the Second World War means Australia has a hugely diverse population, with some 50 per cent of Australians either born overseas or with a parent born overseas. Despite the nation’s size, it is one of the world’s most urbanised countries with the vast majority of its 26 million inhabitants living in cities and/or close to coastlines.
Football in Australia
The first organised football match in Australia was long considered to have taken place in 1880, although numerous recent sources refer to several earlier matches. The men’s national team played its first international in 1922 and the women’s national team in 1979.
The Socceroos have played in five FIFA World Cups™ reaching the Round of 16 in 2006, while the Matildas have qualified for seven previous FIFA Women’s World Cups™, featuring in the quarter-finals in 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Australia hosted the Olympic Games in 1956 (Melbourne), which was the first in the Southern Hemisphere, and again in 2000 (Sydney). The country was also represented in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament on both occasions, and in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in 2000. Australia hosted the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1981, just the third iteration of the tournament, and were again hosts of the same tournament in 1993.
New Zealand lies in the southern Pacific Ocean, 1600 km east of Australia. It is primarily made up of the North and South Islands and a number of smaller islands, with a total area of 268 000 sq km, approximately 36 times less than the US.
Mountain ranges and hill country dominate NZ's landscape; one of the most striking physical features is the Southern Alps. These, along with fiords, glaciers and lakes and the coastal plains of Canterbury and Southland, add to the variety of the South Island scenery. In the North Island the volcanic interior contains NZ's largest lake, Lake Taupo, and most of the country's active hot springs, geysers, mud pools which form part of the volcanic system centred around Rotorua.
Polynesians settlers arrived in Aotearoa/New Zealand around the tenth century, and by the 12th century settlements were scattered over most of the country. Captain James Cook set foot on New Zealand soil in 1769, but European settlement didn’t gather momentum until the 1840's. Maoris and Pacific peoples make up a notable percentage of the population, with Maori being one of the nation’s official languages.
New Zealanders are famously friendly and outgoing, with tourism a major industry. One quarter of New Zealand is protected wilderness and much of the country is pollution-free.
Affectionately referred to as the Land of the Long White Cloud, the nation’s largest city is Auckland but the capital and seat of government is Wellington. New Zealand has a population of just over five million.
Football in New Zealand
New Zealand Football was founded in 1891, making it the oldest national association in Oceania and Australasia by some way. New Zealand’s men’s national team debuted in 1922, and have featured in two FIFA World Cups™. The Chatham Cup (national cup competition) is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023.
New Zealand women's national team, nicknamed the Football Ferns, debuted in 1975 and have featured in five previous FIFA Women’s World Cups™. They have also qualified for four Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments, reaching the quarter-finals at London 2012.
New Zealand has hosted FIFA tournaments on three occasions, namely the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008, FIFA U-17 World Cup (1999) and the FIFA U-20 World Cup (2015).