FIFA has confirmed that the start of Africa’s group stage of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup Qualifiers (WCQ) have been postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The continued disruption of the spread of the virus across the continent has necessitated a delay of three months. The group stage of the qualifiers were due to be played in June but FIFA has confirmed the campaign will now start in September instead.
“FIFA can confirm that in conjunction with CAF and taking into consideration the current disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to ensure optimal playing conditions for all teams,” football’s world governing body posted on its website.
“Taking into consideration the current disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to ensure optimal playing conditions for all teams, it has been decided to postpone the African qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that were due to be played in June 2021.
“The qualifiers are now scheduled to take place in the existing windows of September, October and November 2021, and March 2022.”
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said it will be “reassessing its protocols and processes to enhance the implementation of COVID-related protocols, including specifically focusing on pre-match testing which had been the source of some challenges in previous windows.”
A total of 40 African nations will fight it out for five spots available at the FIFA World Cup finals to be held in Qatar next year.
The African teams have been drawn into 10 groups of four nations each with only the table-toppers progressing to a final play-off phase to decide the teams that will finally be going to Qatar.
The delay comes as a blessing in disguise to many African nations as it will allow them more time to upgrade their stadiums to a standard that will allow them to host matches at home rather than having to play elsewhere.
Africa will have five teams representing the continent at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is scheduled to get underway from 21st November next year.