AFC moves World Cup qualifiers to UAE from China

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said it has moved Group A matches in the region's 2022 World Cup preliminaries to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from China.

The remaining seven games involving China PR, Maldives, Syria, Philippines and Guam were due to be played in a bio-secure bubble in Suzhou that would have allowed overseas players and officials in without quarantine.

But positive COVID-19 tests among players from Syria and Maldives meant teams travelling to China would have been asked to isolate upon arrival in the country.

The matches will now be held at the Sharjah Stadium, with the schedule still to be confirmed, the AFC said.

"These are indeed unprecedented times for everyone and on behalf of the AFC, I would like to thank the UAE FA for agreeing to host the Group A matches of the Asian qualifiers," AFC General Secretary Windsor John said.

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"The AFC outlined its desire to ensure the safe and successful resumption of the Asian qualifiers and we are determined to deliver on our plans, keeping in mind the highest health protocols, for the benefit of all our participating teams, players, fans and key stakeholders."

The UAE is also hosting matches in Group G, which comprises the hosts as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Group winners are guaranteed to advance to the next round of preliminaries along with the four runners-up across the eight groups with the best records.

China resumed their qualifying schedule on Sunday after 18 months without a competitive game due to the ongoing pandemic as Li Tie's side defeated Guam 7-0 in the former Everton midfielder's first game as coach.

Nearly 30,000 football-starved fans were in attendance in Suzhou for the match and watched Spain-based striker Wu Lei and naturalized forward Alan Carvalho both score twice.