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Geneva: The coronavirus pandemic has forced one edition of FIFA’s Club World Cup to be postponed, is pushing back another, and causing concern about delays to 2022 World Cup qualifying games.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino confirmed on Friday an inevitable rescheduling to the traditional seven-team tournament for continental club champions that was scheduled in Qatar in December. South America’s champion will not be known until January after the 2020 Copa Libertadores group stage resumed only this week after a six-month shutdown. “We are discussing, we are monitoring, we are seeing if it can be hosted in Qatar maybe at the beginning of the year (in 2021),” Infantino said on Friday of the old-style Club World Cup. A revamped, 24-team edition was to launch in June 2021 until FIFA put it on hold. That cleared space after the 2020 European Championship and 2020 Copa America were postponed for one year. South America’s 10-team qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup was unable to start in March as the pandemic spread.
A full 18-round program should begin on Oct. 8 and faces challenges to end by March 2022 ahead of FIFA’s intercontinental playoffs in June 2022. The games workload and demands to travel to South America — where COVID-19 infection rates are high and testing capacity is under pressure — are concerning the FIFPro group of player unions worldwide. “I am concerned,” Infantino said of the congested World Cup qualifiers which Asia is skipping until next year.
Infantino also suggested playing qualifiers “in one venue instead of home and away” and squeezing three games instead of two into a 10-day international period. European national teams will play three games in each of October and November to complete the Euro 2020 playoffs and Nations League groups this year.
Its World Cup qualifying groups start in March. The smaller Club World Cup — six continental champions plus the host nation’s league winner — was being staged for a second year by Qatar to prepare for World Cup hosting. “We certainly want to see if we can keep it,” Infantino said. Only Bayern Munich has qualified internationally after winning UEFA’s Champions League last month. (AP)