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China pondering playing World Cup qualifiers at home amid COVID restrictions, media reports

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-10-14 15:11
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BEIJING -- Chinese football authorities are mulling over the possibilities of playing their home FIFA World Cup qualifiers in China rather than at neutral venues amid COVID restrictions, Chinese media has reported.

Suzhou, an eastern industrial city of China, has applied to host China's next two home games, against Oman and Australia, in November, and the Chinese Football Associations and relevant government departments are in the process of considering it, reported Guangzhou-based Soccer News on Thursday, the day the Chinese side made their way back to China from Saudi Arabia after spending 48 days on the road.

"It is a rather complicated process as it involves the entry into China of two foreign teams: Oman and Australia," the report said.

"At least it offers some hope that China could finally play its home games at Chinese stadiums," the report said.

Due to strict COVID-19 restrictions, China moved its first two home games to the Middle East, where they lost to Japan 1-0 September 7 in Doha, Qatar before beating Vietnam 3-2 a week ago in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates.

China head coach Li Tie has bemoaned lack of home game atmosphere in these two games.

"We are longing to go back to China and play our following home games there, which will be totally different from playing at neutral venues as nominal hosts," he said.

"We also need to use the home advantage to beat opponents who are stronger than us," he noted.

China is scheduled to face Oman on November 11 and Australia five days later at home.

Li did not rule out the possibility of his side having to playing those two games on foreign soils in November.

"So far, we are not certain if the games will be held in China," he said.

China currently, with one win and three losses, sits nine points behind Group B leader Saudi Arabia, who has the maximum 12 points from their first four games. Australia stays at the second place with nine points.

The top two from both six-team groups qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar automatically. The two third-placed teams will then face each other in a two-legged playoff, with the winner of that tie entering an intercontinental playoff.

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