Earlier, the Blue Tigers were scheduled to play their remaining qualifying games in October and November 2020.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation in several Asian countries, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA have decided to postpone the remaining joint-qualifiers for both the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup, to 2021. A few weeks ago, the AFC had announced its decision to hold the remaining matches in October and November this year itself, but they have now been further postponed to 2021, as the virus continues to spread in various parts of the continent.
The official statement released by the AFC on Wednesday reads, “In light of the current COVID-19 situation in many countries, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have jointly decided that the upcoming qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, originally scheduled to take place during the international match windows in October and November 2020, will be rescheduled to 2021.”
“With the aim of protecting the health and safety of all participants, FIFA and the AFC will continue to work together to closely monitor the situation in the region and to identify new dates for the respective qualifying matches. Further details on the new dates for the next round of qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be announced in due course,” the statement further added.
Meanwhile, it was recently understood that as many 18 players and an assistant coach of the Bangladesh national team have been infected with COVID-19 since gathering for a training camp last week. A total of 36 players were present at the camp in Gazipur near Dhaka, to prepare for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The matches were initially planned to be held in June, before COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the globe. Almost all major sporting events had to be cancelled or postponed, as millions of people across the world tested positive for the virus in the past few months. For instance, the UEFA European Championships have been postponed to 2021 and so have the Tokyo Olympics. Both events were supposed to be held this year.
The Indian football team was set to host Qatar on October 8, followed by matches against Afghanistan and Bangladesh in November. However, as per the latest decision taken by the confederation, none of these matches will happen in 2020.
The Blue Tigers are currently placed fourth in Group E, with just three points from five matches. They are virtually out of contention for the first two spots, currently held by Qatar and Oman with 13 and 12 points respectively. This also means that they are virtually out of the race to qualify for the upcoming edition of the World Cup. However, a possible third-place finish in the group will help them seal a spot in the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers.