The AFC have approved new dates for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers.

Asian Football Confederation’s Competition Committee on Wednesday approved the schedule of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers, following a virtual meeting chaired by Dr. Tran Quoc Tuan.

It was agreed that all the Asian Qualifiers (Round 2) matches should be completed by June 15, 2021. Matchday 7 and 8 will be conducted in March 2021, with Matchday 9 and 10 to be held in June. The final round of World Cup Qualifiers are set to start by September 2021.

The AFC have decided to complete the 10 matchdays of the Asian Qualifiers Final Round by the end of March 2022, with the Asian and Inter-Continental Playoffs proposed for the FIFA Window May/June in 2022. The Asian Playoff for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is proposed as a single match. The Second Round Qualifiers were earlier scheduled to be completed by November this year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the games were postponed.

From the Indian national team‘s perspective, they have played five games and managed to garner only three points with three more games to go. India were scheduled to play Qatar on 26th March at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Now, if the pattern of the schedule remains the same, then India will play Qatar at home in March 2021 i.e. on Matchday 7. This is before they visit Bangladesh and host Afghanistan in June 2021, which will be on Matchday 9 and 10 respectively.

The 2023 Asia Cup which was supposed to be held in China will be shifted to another country after the China Football Association pulled out of hosting the tournament.

The Committee has also agreed that the hosting process for the 2022 and 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup editions will be re-opened to member associations in the West, with the intention of the 2026 tournament providing preparation for the AFC Asian Cup in 2027.

It is intended that all future AFC U-23 Asian Cups in non-Olympic years will be hosted by the member association staging the subsequent AFC Asian Cup, while the competition dates for the AFC U23 Asian Cup 2022 will be further discussed.

In the meeting, the chair thanked the Qatar FA and authorities, as well as the AFC administration, for the successful staging of the AFC Champions League (West) in September and October as well as the preparations for the AFC Champions League (East) which begins next week.

Speaking on the topic Dr. Tran said, “We have successfully completed the AFC Champions League in the West and in just a few days, we will kick-off the competition for the East region clubs. Our sincere thanks go to the Qatar Football Association and the Qatar government as well as our congratulations to the AFC Administration.

“They have done an excellent job. I am sure they will build on their expertise to stage an outstanding tournament, including the final on December 19. At all times the safety and health of all players, teams and officials have been and remain our priority,” he quoted further.

The Sub-Committee, chaired by the AFC Competitions chairperson Dr. Tran, will decide on urgent matters under the AFC Champions League 2020 Regulations and Special Rules applicable to the AFC Competitions during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Special Rules).

The Competition Regulations for the AFC Champions League 2021 and the AFC Cup 2021 were approved. The new calendar for the AFC Cup 2021 was also approved, while there would be further discussions on match dates and competition formats for the AFC Champions League 2021 with all stakeholders in the coming days. The upcoming edition of ACL will also see FC Goa being the first team from India to qualify for the group stages after finishing in the first position in the ISL last season in the group stages.

The Committee also agreed that the previously postponed AFC U-19 Championship will be staged in Uzbekistan between March 3 to 20, 2021 and they also accepted changes to the eligibility rules for the AFC U-16 Championship Bahrain, to allow players born on or after January 1, 2004 to play in the tournament.

The dates for the AFC U-16 Championship, which was also postponed earlier due to the pandemic will be discussed further. The Blue Colts will play the Asian tournament under the tutelage of Bibiano Fernandes and have been drawn against Uzbekistan South Korea and Australia. fI they manage to qualify for semi-finals, they will make it to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru next year.

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