Dubai: The UAE national football team will continue with their preparations in Serbia for the postponed joint qualifiers to the 2022 Fifa World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Earlier on Wednesday, Fifa, the world governing body for football and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) jointly announced their decision to postpone the upcoming qualifying matches for the 2022 Fifa World Cup Qatar and 2023 AFC Asian Cup China at least till next year.
The joint qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China were originally scheduled to take place during the international match windows in October and November 2020. However, with very little respite from the sweeping coronavirus pandemic, the two footballing bodies have decided to postpone the matches till 2021.
“With the aim of protecting the health and safety of all participants, Fifa and the AFC will continue to work together to closely monitor the situation in the region and to identify new dates for the respective qualifying matches,” a statement from the AFC said.
“Further details on the new dates for the next round of qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be announced in due course,” it added.
Countries have been busy with their preparations for the qualifying rounds of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Led by Jorge Luis Pinto, their new coach from Colombia, the UAE’s squad of 28 players have been camping at the Sports Centre of the Football Association of Serbia situated in Terazije located in the municipality of Stari Grad in Belgrade, since last Saturday.
The team is also expected to play at least a couple of friendlies during their stay in Serbia.
“It’s been a week already for our national team in Serbia. We cannot just call them back to the UAE,” a source from the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) told Gulf News.
“The team has got another 10 days or so in Belgrade. Whether the qualifiers are on or postpone, this time will be a wonderful opportunity for the players and the new coach to get to know each other,” he added.
Going into their last four qualifying matches, the UAE currently lie in fourth place with six points in Group G that is being led by Vietnam with 11 points, followed by Malaysia (9), Thailand (8) and Indonesia yet to open their account.
The UAE have a mountain to climb as they need to win all four matches, if they are to advance to the third stage of qualifying. The UAE were to open against Malaysia on October 8 before travelling to Indonesia (October 13) and then their last two home matches against Thailand (November 12) and Vietnam (November 17). The AFC is expected to inform associations about the new dates later.
As per the schedule, eight group winners and four best runners-up will progress to the continent’s 12-team final qualifying stage for the World Cup. There are 40 national teams involved in the second round of World Cup Asian qualifying, which had already been delayed in March and June due to the pandemic.