NEW DELHI: India’s postponed 2022 FIFA World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying round matches will be played in March and June next year as the continental football governing body’s competition committee took a decision on the matter on Wednesday.
The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Competition Committee, however, did not reveal the exact dates of the matches. 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).
“… 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 said in a statement after a virtual meeting of the committee.
Though out of contention of a World Cup berth, they are still in contention for a spot in the Asian Cup, to be held in China.
The Indian team is still to play three matches — against Qatar (at home) which will be played in March and Bangladesh (away) and Afghanistan (at home) in June. 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 but the match was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee also approved the competition regulations for the AFC Champions League (ACL) 2021 and the AFC Cup 2021. 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. From India, FC Goa will take part in the ACL, while ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC will play in the AFC Cup.