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Coronavirus scare: India's upcoming World Cup qualifiers postponed

4:59 PM GMT+8 09/03/2020
Oman v India
The Blue Tigers were supposed to host Qatar and Afghanistan and were set to travel to Bangladesh...

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has announced that the upcoming joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup round 2 qualifiers, set to be played in March and June, have all been postponed until further notice due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak all over the world.

The Indian national team's plans have also been hit as a result.

The Blue Tigers were set to host Asian champions Qatar on March 26 at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar. In June, India were supposed to travel to Dhaka to take on Bangladesh on June 4 before hosting Afghanistan in Kolkata on June 9.

All three matches have now been postponed along with other matches from the qualifiers.

The AFC informed the respective member associations of the decision in a letter which said, "FIFA and AFC will discuss further details of the postponed matches and communicate to the PMAs (Participating Member Association) in due course."

The coronavirus outbreak, which causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19, has affected over 90 countries and over a 100,000 people worldwide. Many sporting and other competitions, including mass gatherings, have already been cancelled.

Asian countries like China, South Korea, Iran and Japan are among the worst affected and the move is to ensure the safety of players and officials.

However, AFC has also decreed that the matches can take place if the two countries involved deem that the health and safety of the players and other concerned individuals is not at risk.

"PMAs may still play the matches in March and June 2020 upon mutual agreement, provided the safety and health concerns of all individuals involved met the required standards, subject to prior approval by FIFA and AFC," the letter said.

India are currently fourth in Group E with three points from five matches and are unlikely to progress to Round 3 of the World Cup qualifiers, instead dropping down to the Asian Cup qualifiers.