SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Australia’s home World Cup qualifying game against China on September 2 will instead be played in Qatar, the Asian Football Confederation confirmed Thursday.
The change was made “in light of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and China,” the AFC said, as arrivals into both countries face 14-day quarantines.
China will stay in Qatar, which hosts next year’s World Cup, to face Japan five days later while Australia will head to Hanoi to play Vietnam in Group B.
Australia soccer federation chief executive James Johnson said it’s disappointing to not play at home, but he’s hopeful about scheduled home games against Oman and Saudi Arabia in October and November, respectively.
“History highlights that playing on home soil provides a distinct advantage for the Socceroos when it comes to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup,” Johnson said. ”We are equally committed to continuing dialogue with governments about bringing the Socceroos … home this year.”
Quarantine rules have caused headaches for clubs, national teams and administrators all around the world. On Tuesday, English Premier League clubs announced that they would not release nearly 60 players for international duty in countries on Britain’s “red list” which mandates quarantine upon their return.
The AFC also announced that due to security concerns, Iraq and Syria will play their Group A home games elsewhere. After returning from South Korea, Iraq will host Iran in Doha while Syria’s first home game comes against the United Arab Emirates in Amman, Jordan on September 7.
The top two from both six-team groups qualify automatically for the World Cup. The third-placed teams will meet in a playoff with the winner taking on a team from another confederation.
IMAGE: A general view shows the Al Bayt stadium, built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer championship, during a stadium tour in Al Khor, north of Doha, Qatar, December 17, 2019.