KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Asian Football Confederation announced on Friday that the majority of the region’s 2022 World Cup qualifying matches in March will be postponed to May and June — with a few exceptions that include Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
“Taking into consideration the existing travel and quarantine restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across the continent, the AFC and FIFA have jointly agreed to postpone the majority of the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the AFC said in a statement.
There are four games that will go ahead. On March 25, Saudi Arabia will host Yemen in Riyadh while Tajikistan and Mongolia will also play. Five days later, Mongolia will travel to Tokyo to take on Japan and Australia heads to Nepal.
No second-round qualification matches have been played since November 2019 because of multiple postponements due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The race is now on to finish that second round, with most of the 40 teams involved having four games remaining before the current deadline of June 15.
The AFC said it has been working with member associations grouped together to help them make their own arrangements and play out the remaining games at one venue.
On Thursday, the Korea Football Association (KFA) said that it has held discussions with the AFC as well as representatives of its Group H opponents: North Korea, Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka.
“The AFC decided to postpone the qualifiers from March to June after hosting a video conference with all Group H national associations,” a KFA official said.
South Korea is interested in hosting the remaining games in its group. “We are considering it,” said the official, adding that applications have to be sent to the AFC by March 5, with the final decision on the host venues announced ten days later.
The winners of the eight groups in the second round, along with the four best-performing second-place teams, will progress to the third round of qualification that is scheduled to start in September.
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