UAE FA offers to stage World Cup qualifiers after matches are postponed again

Travel restrictions have caused problem for opponents Malaysia and Indonesia

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The Football Association has expressed its willingness to host all of Group G’s remaining World Cup qualifiers after the decision was taken on Wednesday to postpone next month’s matches until June.

All outstanding fixtures in the pool will now take place in a centralised venue after a number of the teams raised concerns regarding both staging matches and travelling during the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, the UAE’s next two opponents, Malaysia and Indonesia, cited the travel restrictions and quarantine measures in their respective countries as reason for delaying the fixtures.

The second round of qualification, postponed repeatedly last year because of the pandemic, was set to resume next month, with the UAE to face Malaysia at home on March 25 and Indonesia away five days later. Their final two games, at home to Thailand and then group leaders Vietnam, were scheduled for June.

However, the respective federations held a remote meeting on Wednesday with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), where it was decided once more to push back the matches.

The FA had offered to stage the Indonesia match in the UAE, but will now register a proposal to the AFC by March 5 to host the remaining eight group games in June. The governing body will announce their final decision on March 15.

Irrespective of where the matches will be held, the UAE are now slated to take on Malaysia on June 3, Thailand on June 7 and Indonesia four days later, before rounding off the campaign on June 15 against group leaders Vietnam. The host association, though, has the right to hold matches across two days instead of one day for each round.

Currently, the UAE sit fourth in the standings, five points off the summit, although they have a game in hand over each of their rivals. The eight group winners and four best runners-up will progress to the final round of qualification. Round 3 is to begin in September and must be concluded in April next year. The World Cup begins in Qatar in November 2022.

The UAE national team were scheduled to meet for a training camp on March 17, but it is understood they will now look to hold a shorter get-together next month, where they will also play a friendly match.

Bert van Marwijk returned as UAE manager in December little more than one year after being dismissed. The Dutchman, who led the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final and then guided Saudi Arabia through qualification to the 2018 tournament, succeeded Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto. Van Marwijk’s previous stint in charge lasted nine months.