Qualifying games in Asia for the 2022 World Cup intensify this month with two war-affected nations unable to host home games, and with updated FIFA rules implemented to help protect players’ health and ensure match highlights are seen more widely.
Yemen and Afghanistan are to play their first “home” games in five-team qualifying groups in neutral countries for security reasons.
FIFA on Friday said that Yemen would host Saudi Arabia on Sept. 10 in Bahrain’s national stadium, and Afghanistan are to face Bangladesh in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe.
Syria has their first “home” game next month against the Maldives, and are also to host in a neutral country with the venue still to be confirmed by FIFA.
The 40-team first Asian group stage is to see regional powers Iran, Japan, South Korea and Australia kick off their bids to try to advance to Qatar.
Action from all games — which would include the first preliminary round in Africa from Wednesday, among about 800 matches played over two-and-a-half years — should be seen by more fans globally.
FIFA has updated its 2022 tournament rules to insist that broadcast rights holders give soccer’s world body “15 minutes of action footage per match.”
“FIFA shall use this footage free of charge for promotional purposes in the preliminary competition and in football worldwide,” the rule states.
Seeking to safeguard players’ health, World Cup rules now demand stricter medical checks, including for potential heart issues, before a team’s first qualifying game.
The medical assessments were previously only required before the 32-team finals tournament.
A concussion protocol for players sustaining head injuries is also specified in more detail.
Stricter checks on players’ nationality are now made before they can be named on a team sheet.
For the 2014 qualifiers, players could provide an identity card to prove who they were. For last year’s edition, passports were needed.
Tightening the demand further, FIFA now insists that players produce a “valid permanent international passport” before the game for official match delegates to inspect before being selected.
In Asia, the eight five-team groups in the upcoming qualifying round are to play through June next year.
Group winners and the four best runners-up advance to another group stage, played from September next year to October 2021. Those same 12 teams also qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Four Asian teams are to qualify directly for the 32-team World Cup. A fifth nation can advance to Qatar in an intercontinental playoff round in March 2022.
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