Keeping in mind various travel restrictions as well as the current Covid-19 situation in many countries, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have decided to postpone the Asia leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers -- originally scheduled for the international match window in October and November 2020 -- to 2021.
"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 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 in 2021," read the AFC statement announcing the postponement.
"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 World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be announced in due course," added the release.
The AFC had previously scheduled dates in October and November for the qualifiers and were considering the staging of matches at a centralised venue for each group. As it stands, those plans have now been dropped.
The postponement means Indian football team’s fixtures scheduled for October 8 (Qatar at home) and November, Afghanistan (home) and Bangladesh (away) are now dissolved.
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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.
India are out of contention for the top two spots but a third-place finish will book them a direct berth in the third round of the qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has so far not released a statement regarding the latest development. The story will be updated once it does.
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