Aust unlikely to host WC qualifiers hub

Tony Pignata says the A-L fixture list is flexible and unlikely to clash with the Cup qualifiers.
Tony Pignata says the A-L fixture list is flexible and unlikely to clash with the Cup qualifiers.

The Socceroos are almost certain to play their World Cup qualifiers in June on foreign soil with authorities resigned to quarantine restrictions making it impossible to host the games in Australia.

Graham Arnold's men will play the four remaining fixtures of their preliminary group stage in a "centralised" hub between May 31 and June 15, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Tuesday.

Member nations are being invited to put their hand up to host matches, with the AFC expected to announce venues by the end of March.

With several Socceroos playing overseas and players and staff from opponents Nepal, Jordan, Kuwait and Taiwan needing to travel, Australia's blanket two-week quarantine on overseas arrivals is expected to be too much of a hurdle to clear.

Negotiations between FA and government officials are ongoing but the acceptance seems to be to play Australia's remaining fixtures overseas and prepare a potential hosting bid for the next stage of qualifying when World Cup spots go on the line.

It's unclear at this stage if any of Australia's rivals will put in a bid to host or if the games will be played at a neutral venue such as Qatar.

Australia, who haven't played since November 2019 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, sit comfortably on top of their group with four wins from four matches.

In a statement released on Tuesday, FA chief executive James Johnson said the association would aim to "play out our remaining qualifiers in a suitable location".

The decision to play out Australia's fixtures across the two-week window in June coincides with the likely start of the A-League finals.

Perth Glory chief executive Tony Pignata said the A-League fixture is flexible and accommodations would likely be made to ensure clubs weren't playing finals matches during the World Cup qualifiers window.

"What we don't want to do is cause havoc amongst clubs during finals, I think that's important," Pignata told AAP.

"We don't want to start having valuable players missing out on teams, etc, so you know the APL (Australian Professional Leagues) are looking at all that.

"There'll be discussions with the FA on the scheduling and the AFC and we have that flexibility to make changes if need be."

Australian Associated Press