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AFC, Fifa postpone Asian qualifiers until 2021

FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 Pool D match between Malaysia and Indonesia at Stadium National Bukit Jalil on November 19, 2019 in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia. (Photo by Muhammad Amir Abidin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Asian qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup that were due to take place this year have been postponed until 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Asian Football Confederation announced the move today (Wednesday), saying that the decision had been jointly taken with Fifa.

The postponed matches were to take place during international match windows in October and November this year. The new dates have not yet been announced. The AFC said that it was working with Fifa and other stakeholders to rearrange the matches.

Asian teams qualify for the World Cup and the Asian Cup via the same process. The 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers are in the second round, a group stage. Play was halted in March due to the pandemic, with matches rescheduled several times before the AFC eventually indefinitely postponed all of its matches that were due to take place in May and June.

Six matchdays had been played in the second round and four were remaining. The second round was originally scheduled to be completed by June, and the third round group stage to begin in September and run until October 2021.

The Football Marketing Asia agency’s control of the commercial rights for AFC competitions is to begin with the third round of the qualifiers. FMA has the rights under an eight-year deal that runs until the end of 2028.

The AFC’s club competitions the Champions League and the AFC Cup are also currently suspended. The tournaments are to resume in September, with groups based in geographical ‘hubs’ in order to limit travel.

FMA’s deal also includes rights to AFC club competitions.

AFC media and sponsorship rights in the current cycle, from 2017 to 2020, were managed by the Sportfive agency (previously known as Lagardère Sports).