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BEIJING (AP) — China’s COVID-19 travel restrictions will likely mean World Cup qualifying matches scheduled for the eastern city of Suzhou this week will be relocated to the United Arab Emirates.

The Chinese Football Association issued a statement Monday saying the outbreak of infections in the Maldives and Syria meant both national teams would have to undergo strict quarantine after arriving in China, and couldn’t play as scheduled.

Maldives and Syria were scheduled to play Group A games in Suzhou in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

“Under the suggestion of the Asian Football Confederation, the CFA agreed to move the remaining Group A matches of the FIFA 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers to Dubai,” the CFA statement said.

The AFC has not announced a new schedule of matches.

Syria leads the five-team group with 15 points from five straight wins. China moved into second spot on 10 points after a 7-0 win over last-place Guam on Sunday. Maldives is in fourth place with six points. The top team in each group will advance to the third round of Asian qualifying.

The second round of Asian qualifying has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The remaining games in most of the eight groups are to be contested in hubs. Some teams will be playing their first international matches in 18 months this week.


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