KUALA LUMPUR — FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have agreed to postpone the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 following consultation with Asia’s member associations, the AFC officially announced on Monday on its website.
Matches originally scheduled to take place during the international window of 23-31 March 2020 and 1-9 June 2020 are postponed to later dates, according to the agreement.
FIFA and the AFC will discuss further details of the postponed matches, the AFC said in its latest report on the event.
“However, in order to support the member associations concerned, and provided that the safety of all individuals involved meets the required standards and that the member associations due to play each other mutually agree, the match(es) may still be played during the international windows of March or June 2020, but always subject to prior approval from both FIFA and the AFC,” it said.
The report added that FIFA and the AFC had also agreed to postpone the AFC Futsal Championship Turkmenistan 2020, which serves as the qualifiers for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2020, until 5-16 August 2020.
“The upcoming qualifiers for the Olympic Football Tournaments are foreseen to be played as scheduled, with the exception of the women’s Olympic qualifiers play-off between Korea Republic and China PR, which will now take place during the international window of 1-10 June 2020,” according to the AFC.
FIFA and the AFC will continue to assess the situation in relation to COVID-19 and will decide whether further changes to the schedule of Asian FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers are required, always with the aim of protecting the safety and health of all individuals involved,” it said on the website.
The Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is to be held in Qatar for national teams which are members of the AFC.
Apart from Qatar, who qualified automatically as hosts, a total of 4.5 slots (4 direct slots and 1 inter-confederation play-off slot) in the final tournament are available for AFC teams.
The qualification process involves four rounds, where the first two rounds double as the qualification for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Despite qualifying as hosts, Qatar are participating in these first two rounds to seek Asian Cup qualification. The first two rounds also act as qualifiers for the 2020 AFC Solidarity Cup
The deadly and increasingly spreading of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has forced football matches to be postponed around the world.
Earlier, FIFA chairman Gianni Infantino was reported by the Daily Mail as saying human health was the most important consideration and he would not rule out any possibility. He added FIFA needed to observe the situation closely and governments and related organisations would be in charge.
Việt Nam currently lead their World Cup qualifying group on 11 points after five matches, two points ahead of Malaysia.
While the postponement would disappoint fans, getting extra time off could help Park Hang-seo’s squad recover from a defensive injury crisis. — VNS