Australia’s charge towards its fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022 has temporarily been put on hold.
Football Federation Australia has yet to respond to the Asian Football Confederation’s decision on Monday night to postpone the latest round of qualifiers because of coronavirus fears.
The matches could still go ahead if the member associations due to play each other mutually agree.
The Socceroos’ final four matches of the group phase were scheduled to take place during the FIFA international window of March 23-31 and June 1-9.
Fortunately, it does not affect the Matildas’ bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after Friday night’s 5-0 first-leg win against Vietnam.
The Australian side is scheduled to play the second leg at Quảng Ninh on Wednesday night.
“Following consultation with Asia’s member associations, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have agreed to postpone the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” FIFA said in a statement on Monday.
Top of Group B following four consecutive victories, Graham Arnold’s men were to face Kuwait in Perth on Thursday, March 26, before travelling to take on Nepal on Tuesday, March 31.
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) March 9, 2020
They were to wrap up with home games on Thursday, June 4 against Taiwan and then Jordan five days later at yet to be decided venues.
FIFA added that the matches could still go ahead if the member associations due to play each other mutually agree, subject to prior approval from both FIFA and the AFC.
Australia has qualified for five World Cups, including the last four.
It is also due to compete with Qatar in the Copa America tournament in June against some of South America’s finest nations.
Australia will play against Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and host nation Argentina.
— Socceroos (@Socceroos) March 4, 2020
FIFA and the AFC have also agreed to postpone the AFC Futsal Championship in Turkmenistan, which serves as the qualifiers for the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania, until August 5-16.
The AFC said upcoming qualifiers for the Olympic football tournaments will be played as scheduled, with the exception of the women’s Olympic qualifiers playoff between Korea Republic and China PR, which will now take place during the international window of June 1-10.
“FIFA and the AFC will continue to assess the situation in relation to COVID-19 and will decide whether further changes to the schedule of Asian FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers are required, always with the aim of protecting the safety and health of all individuals involved,” the AFC said.