Singapore Football

Singapore's World Cup football qualifiers postponed

Fifa and AFC delay Asian qualifying matches because of coronavirus outbreak

Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation announced yesterday that the Asian qualifiers for the World Cup have been postponed, including those involving Singapore, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The matches were originally scheduled during the international windows of March 23-31 and June 1-9.

The Lions, who are third in Group D two points behind leaders Uzbekistan, were due to meet Palestine away on March 26, before facing Saudi Arabia at home on March 31.

Their last match was to have been away to Uzbekistan on June 4.

"Following consultation with Asia's member associations, Fifa and the AFC have agreed to postpone the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup," Fifa said in a statement.

China's matches against Maldives at home and Guam away were already moved to Buriram, Thailand, and were set to be played in an empty stadium.

But more than two dozen other matches were scheduled around Asia on March 26 and 31.

A further 32 games were scheduled during the second international break on two match days on June 4 and 9.

Fifa added that the matches could still go ahead if the member associations due to play each other mutually agree and safety standards are met, subject to approval from both Fifa and the AFC.

It added that qualifiers for the Olympic football tournament were likely to be played as scheduled, with the exception of the women's Olympic qualifying play-off between South Korea and China.

The play-off will now take place during the June 1-10 international window.

Fifa and the AFC also announced new dates for the AFC Futsal Championship in Turkmenistan, which was scheduled for Feb 26-March 8 and will now be played from Aug 5-16.

The coronavirus outbreak has also affected Uefa's European club competitions.

Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League last- 16, second leg at home to German club Borussia Dortmund on Thursday morning (Singapore time) will be played behind closed doors, Paris police said yesterday.

DEATHS

The decision comes after the French government on Sunday announced measures to cope with the spread of the virus, including banning all gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

France has so far seen more than 1,200 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 19 deaths.

"In accordance with the measures announced... last night, the police chief has decided that the match... will be played behind closed doors," Paris police said in a statement.

PSG, who would have expected a full house of more than 45,000 fans at the Parc des Princes for the game, issued a statement of their own, saying: "In this context, the club remain fully mobilised to organise the match in the best possible conditions."

PSG have already had their Ligue 1 match at Strasbourg on Saturday postponed due to the extent of the outbreak in the Alsace region of eastern France.

Tomorrow morning's Champions League clash between Valencia and Italy's Atalanta in Spain will also be played behind closed doors.

The visitors will travel from Bergamo in the Lombardy region, which is amongst the worst hit parts of Italy by the virus.

In the Europa League, Wolverhampton Wanderers' last 16, first-leg tie with Olympiakos at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Friday morning will be held behind closed doors, the Greek government announced yesterday. - REUTERS, AFP

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