Asia to host first leg of FIFA World Cup qualifiers from June

ZURICH: The global governing body of football, FIFA announced after its Organizing Committee meeting in the city on Monday that Asia will be the first continent to kick off the 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament in June this year. The Asian Football Confederation will be responsible in hosting the matches.

The timing of the decision is likely to enable FIFA in buying more time in finalising whether the World Cup will have 32 or 48 teams. Although FIFA president Gianni Infantino has expressed his desire to include 48 of them, the situation is complex due to strained diplomatic ties between Qatar and its Middle Eastern counterparts such as the UAE. Qatar is the sole rights holder at present for hosting the marquee event, which it had won back in 2010.

On the other hand, it also gives FIFA the opportunity to organise more qualifying matches than the 800 done for the 2018 World Cup in Russia across a period of two and a half years. Dates for the tournament and the qualifying rounds of other confederations will be announced soon.

The governing body also declared that it will take a decision to use the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in the FIFA Women’s World Cup edition this summer for the first time ever, at its upcoming Council meeting in Paris.

“The chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee has updated us on the progress made with regard to the implementation of VAR at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019. Based on the thorough work carried out over the past few months, FIFA is happy with the steps taken and the excellent job done by FIFA’s refereeing team and the female referees involved. We are confident about proposing the use of VAR in France to the FIFA Council, as we are very positive about its implementation,” FIFA deputy secretary general Zvonimir Boban stated.