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Asian football body on verge of postponing World Cup qualifiers due to coronavirus

All News 09:43 March 03, 2020

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- The Asian football governing body has inched closer to postponing World Cup qualifying matches following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said Tuesday it has had preliminary discussions with some East Zone member associations regarding fixtures for the 2022 FIFA World Cup regional qualifiers. The East Zone nations include South Korea, China, Japan and Australia.

In this file photo from Nov. 14, 2019, South Korean players stand for their national anthem before facing Lebanon in the teams' Group H match in the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut. (Yonhap)

The AFC added that it will meet with West Zone nations -- those in Central Asia and the Middle East -- and FIFA this week before reaching its final decision on scheduling changes.

Asian World Cup hopefuls are currently in the second round of the qualification, which is scheduled to resume on March 26. As it stands, teams are to play again on March 31, and the second round is supposed to conclude with matches on June 4 and June 9.

But with the coronavirus having originated in China and struck other Asian countries like South Korea and Iran hard, the AFC noted, "a growing number of national teams are unable either to stage matches or to travel to venues."

There are 40 nations divided into eight groups of five in the second round. South Korea, seeking their 10th consecutive World Cup appearance, are in Group H with Turkmenistan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and North Korea.

South Korea have played four of eight matches and are in second place with eight points from two wins and two draws. Turkmenistan, who have played one more match than South Korea, are in first place thanks to three wins and two losses for nine points.

South Korea are scheduled to host Turkmenistan on March 26 and travel to Sri Lanka five days later.

From the second round, the eight group winners and the four-best runners-up will advance to the third round.

In this file photo from Oct. 10, 2019, Son Heung-min of South Korea takes a penalty against Sri Lanka in the teams' Group H match in the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)


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