Australia’s march towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to be placed on hold until October, with the AFC looking to cancel all qualifiers this month and in June in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
A meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday concluded that in the interests of player safety all qualifiers involving AFC nations should be shelved, meaning the third phase on the road to Qatar would be shoehorned into 2021.
The plan needs to be ratified by FIFA, and if approved would kibosh the March 26 visit of Kuwait to Perth, and Australia’s clash in Nepal four days later.
An official announcement might come as early as this weekend, or possibly next week, from the AFC with the J-League, K-League and Chinese Super League already in lockdown, and AFC Champions League games affected.
A World Cup shutdown would also see Group B leaders Australia’s final two games - the home clashes against Chinese Taipei (June 4) and Jordan (June 9) cancelled.
The Socceroos are two points clear of Kuwait at the halfway stage of qualifying, with a game in hand.
The postponements would be a financial blow to FFA, who declined to comment when contacted by The World Game.
An AFC official also opted not to return calls.
There’s another FIFA window in September but the AFC wants all-action quarantined until October.
The proposed postponements would not affect Australia’s Copa America campaign, which kicks off on June 14, nor the Olyroos’ Olympic Games adventure the following month.
However, with events changing daily in the spread of what is threatening to become a global pandemic, that too might change.