Riyadh to host UAE's crunch World Cup 2022 qualifier against Iraq

Group A match was originally scheduled to be held at the Al Madina International Stadium in Baghdad

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The UAE’s all-important World Cup 2022 qualifier against Iraq, which was originally scheduled to be held in Baghdad, will be played in Riyadh.

Announcing the decision on Saturday, Fifa and Asian Football Confederation stated that the "Group A tie between Iraq and the United Arab Emirates scheduled for March 24, 2022, has been moved from the Al Madina International Stadium in Baghdad to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia."

Explaining the move, the Asian body said the safety and security situation in Iraq forced the decision.

"Based on the assessment, and to ensure the highest standards of safety and security for all the stakeholders involved, it was decided that the match should be moved to a neutral venue," the statement added.

With two matches in the final round remaining, the UAE are third in Group A and have a great opportunity to secure a play-off spot. Iran and South Korea have already sealed the top two spots that guarantee direct entry to the World Cup in Qatar. Following the rescheduled Iraq match, the UAE end their campaign against South Korea in Dubai on March 29.

At present, the UAE sit three points above Lebanon in fourth, with fifth-placed Iraq one point further back.

If the UAE finish third in Group A, they will enter a play-off against the third-placed side in Group B – currently Australia – with the winner of that match moving to the intercontinental play-off for a berth at the Middle East's first World Cup.

The national team have only once previously appeared at a global finals, in 1990.

Iraq will play their final Group A contest away against Syria on March 29 at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai, UAE.

Updated: March 19, 2022, 8:41 AM