KUALA LUMPUR, February 19: India’s 2022 FIFA World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying round matches, which were scheduled to be played next month, have been postponed to June due to coronavirus-related travel and quarantine restrictions.
The second round of qualification matches have not been held since November 2019 due to COVID-19 pandemic. In November last year, the AFC had said that the matches will be held in March and June this year without specifying the exact dates.
The Asian Football Confederation announced on Friday that the majority of Asia’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.
“… all the Asian Qualifiers Round 2 matches should be completed by June 15, 2021 with Match Day 7 and 8 in March 2021 and Match Day 9 and 10 in June 2021 with Final Round of the Asian Qualifiers beginning in September 2021,” the AFC had said then.
Even on Friday, the AFC did not specify the dates, only saying that “it has been working with member associations grouped together to help them make their own arrangements and play out the remaining games in one venue”.
According to FIFA’s international match calendar for 2021, the first window is from March 22-30 while the second is from May 31 to June 15 (for AFC).
Though out of contention of a World Cup berth, India are still in contention for a spot in the Asian Cup, to be held in China.
The Indian team is yet to play three matches — against Qatar (at home), Bangladesh (away) and Afghanistan (at home).
India are currently fourth in Group E with three points from five games. Qatar top the table with 13 points with Oman a point behind them in second.
Eight group winners and four best runners-up will progress to the continent’s 12-team final qualifying stage for the World Cup.
A third-place finish in the group will help India get a direct berth in the third round of the qualifiers for the Asian Cup.
The Indian team was to play against Qatar on October 8 in Bhubaneshwar last year but the match was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (PTI)