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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has forced the AFC to take this decision…

The AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers Final Round will be played in a centralised venue as confirmed by AFC (Asian Football Confederation) on Wednesday. This is a shift from the usual home and away format to single round-robin matches. 

Why did AFC take the decision to host the qualifiers in a centralised venue? 

The Executive Committee of AFC arrived at the decision of hosting the final round of qualifiers in a centralised venue after taking into consideration the existing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The safety and well being of the players and all stakeholders were of paramount importance while taking this decision. 

When will be the matches held? 

There will be three matchdays in the round-robin format and all of them would be played in a single window in June 2022. The dates are June 8, 11, and 14.  However, the new match schedule may be amended if and when necessary according to relevant provisions of the competition regulations. 

Which country will host the matches?

The venue has not yet been decided for the final round of qualifiers. The AFC will open a bidding process which will be open to all participating member associations. After a review of all bids, the final decision will be taken. 

What are the minimum requirements to become a host country? 

The AFC has laid down a few pointers which will be taken into consideration before finalising the host country such as the convenience of flight connections, the medical situation in that country, sufficient venues to organise the matches and most importantly, the medical infrastructure which will facilitate hassle-free mandatory COVID-19 test for all players and officials upon arrival and during the duration of the competition under the guidance of the AFC’s Infection Control Officers.

How does this decision affect India? 

India has qualified for the final round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers by virtue of finishing third in the table of the joint qualifiers of 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup. They are likely to be placed in pot 1 during the draw for the final round of qualifiers. The seeding will be based on the FIFA World Rankings as of October 21. 

As all the matches will be played in a centralised venue, India will lose its home advantage. Moreover, instead of six, there will be only three matches, which further reduces the margin of error. Nonetheless, since India are most likely to be placed in pot 1, they will have opponents who are lower-ranked than them. 

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