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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

UAE FA confident it can meet the challenge of hosting World Cup qualifiers

Second-round matches postponed until June, and will be held in one country

The Football Association is confident it has a strong case to host the remaining Group G World Cup qualifiers in June, although it will likely face competition from Thailand and Vietnam.

On Wednesday, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the group’s five member associations agreed to postpone next month’s second-round matches because of the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with all outstanding fixtures pushed back to June. It means the pool’s eight remaining group games, including four featuring the UAE, will now take place in one country.

The FA has already expressed its willingness to stage the fixtures - as have Thailand - and has until March 5 to submit a bid. The Asian Football Confederation will then announce their decision by March 15.

The FA believes the UAE represents a compelling candidate to stage the qualifiers given the country’s response to the pandemic and the health and safety protocols already in place. In the past year, the UAE has hosted a large number of international teams, in line with public health guidelines.

Also, the federation will emphasise the existing infrastructure in the Emirates, both in terms of its football facilitates and accommodation, as further reasons it should serve as a centralised hub for the matches.

Group G comprises five teams, with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand writing previously to the AFC to highlight concerns about playing next month amid travel restrictions and strict quarantine regulations.

The UAE were to face Malaysia at home and Indonesia away March 25 and March 30 respectively, with the FA prepared for those matches to go ahead as planned. It also offered Indonesia the opportunity to move their fixture to the Emirates.

The UAE are currently fourth in the group, five points off leaders Vietnam, although they have played a game less than their rivals. Three of the national team’s remaining fixtures were scheduled to take place at home, another factor that would appear to strengthen the FA’s case to host.

Given the revised timetable, the UAE resume qualification on June 3 against Malaysia, then play Thailand four days later and Indonesia on June 11. They round off their campaign on June 15 against Vietnam.

The eight group winners progress to the final round of qualification, together with the four best runners-up. Round 3 is to begin in September and must be concluded in April next year. The World Cup begins in Qatar in November 2022.

Asia has four guaranteed places at the tournament alongside hosts Qatar, with one other spot available through an intercontinental play-off. The UAE have only once previously qualified for a World Cup, in 1990.

The AFC is yet to confirm if all remaining matches in the second phase of qualification are to be postponed until June.

Published: February 18, 2021 05:04 PM

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