IT’S final – Sharjah in United Arab Emirates will be the new site of the Group A matches including that of the Philippine Azkals of the 2022 Fifa World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, the Asian Football Confederation announced on Tuesday.
The matches of the Philippines, Syria, China, Maldives, and Guam will be held at the Sharjah Stadium under a centralized set-up or bubble after the United Arab Emirates Football Association agreed to host the teams.
Dubai, also in UAE, is already hosting the Group G centralized matches of the joint qualifiers.
Uncertainty loomed on Monday after the Azkals were told not to push through with its chartered flight from Qatar to China after it was learned that it will no longer be hosting the qualifiers even after already playing a match between the host and Guam on Sunday.
The Azkals were in Doha for a training camp in preparation for the matches against Maldives, Guam, and China, but are now on an extended stay following the postponement of the qualifiers in Suzhou.
The Azkals were also supposed to play Guam on Thursday, but the schedule is expected to be changed especially with Guam still having to travel from Suzhou to United Arab Emirates following its 0-7 loss to China over the weekend.
Even amid reports of COVID-19 infections in the Maldives and Syria team, the AFC assured it will conduct the Group A matches under a safe environment.
“These are indeed unprecedented times for everyone, and, on behalf of the AFC, I would like to thank the UAE FA for agreeing to host the Group A matches of the Asian Qualifiers. The UAE FA’s commitment to host the matches within such a short lead time is testament to their spirit of understanding and organizational excellence, and we are confident that they will provide the best possible environment for our teams and players,” said AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John.
The UAE Football Federation looks forward to bringing in new sets of teams for the qualifiers.
“We have demonstrated with the AFC Champions League (West) in Sharjah the capabilities of the United Arab Emirates in staging world-class competitions. In addition, we are hosting more than 14 national teams’ camps and international friendly matches in preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers, which proves the advanced football infrastructure in the UAE. We look forward to welcoming the participating teams and being the only country in Asia to hosts two groups of the Asian Qualifiers,” said UAE FA general secretary Mohammed Hazzam Al Dhaheri.
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