Doha to Host Iraq’s November Asian Qualifier Matches
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recently confirmed that a number of the teams contesting the qualifiers for the FIFA 2022 World Cup would be playing their November ‘home’ matches in neutral venues - one of those venues is in Doha, Qatar - hosts of the upcoming 2022 tournament.
The AFC Qualifiers
The Asian qualifiers are in their third and final round. Forty-six teams were whittled down to twelve in Rounds One and Two. The twelve remaining squads have been split into two groups of six teams. In Group A, Iran, Iraq, Korea Republic, Lebanon, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been drawn together. Australia, China, Japan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam have been placed in Group B.
Each group is playing a round-robin of home-and-away matches in a battle to win a place at the 2022 tournament. The top two teams from each group will qualify for four direct spots at the World Cup. The two third-placed teams will advance to a fourth-round, the winner of which will head to the inter-confederation playoffs in June 2022 for a last chance at qualifying.
The third round began on September 2nd and will run until March 2022 over three international windows - November, January and March. Only six matches remain for each nation, two of which will be played out during the upcoming window...
As hosts of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar automatically qualifies for the tournament.
The November Window
November’s Asian qualifying fixtures are scheduled to take place on the 11th and the 16th. Matches are generally to be hosted by the nations playing at home. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the necessary travel restrictions imposed by some governments, and the security issues some host nations face, several matches will be played in neutral venues. Iraq will play out their next two games at Doha’s Thani bin Jassim Stadium, also known as the Al-Gharafa Stadium, due to its location in the Al-Gharafa district of Doha. China will also host their home matches at the Sharjah Stadium in the UAE, and Syria will host its home game against Iran at the King Abdullah International Stadium in Saudi Arabia.
The fixtures for November are as follows:
|Opponents||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)||Venue|
|OpponentsSouth Korea vs UAE||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 11th / 14:00||VenueGoyang Stadium, South Korea|
|OpponentsLebanon vs Iran||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 11th / 15:00||VenueSaida International Stadium, Lebanon|
|OpponentsIraq vs Syria||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 11th / 20:00||VenueThani bin Jassim Stadium, Doha, Qatar|
|OpponentsLebanon vs UAE||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 16th / 15:00||VenueSaida International Stadium, Lebanon|
|OpponentsIraq vs South Korea||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 16th / 18:00||VenueThani bin Jassim Stadium, Doha, Qatar|
|OpponentsSyria vs Iran||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 16th / 19:00||VenueKing Abdullah International Stadium, Saudi Arabia|
|Opponents||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)||Venue|
|OpponentsAustralia vs Saudi Arabia||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 11th / 12:10||VenueWestern Sydney Stadium, Australia|
|OpponentsVietnam vs Japan||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 11th / 15:00||VenueMỹ Đình National Stadium, Vietnam|
|OpponentsChina vs Oman||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 11th / 16:00||VenueSharjah Stadium, UAE|
|OpponentsVietnam vs Saudi Arabia||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 16th / 15:00||VenueMỹ Đình National Stadium, Vietnam|
|OpponentsChina vs Australia||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 16th / 18:00||VenueSharjah Stadium, UAE|
|OpponentsOman vs Japan||Date/Time (local time - Qatar)November 16th / 19:00||VenueSultan Qaboos Stadium, Oman|
Iraq’s Contest in Doha
After three draws and a loss to biggest rivals Iran, Iraq will be looking for their first win of the third round when they take to the field against Syria in Doha on the 11th. The Iraqi squad have to date played all of their opponents in Group A except the Syrians. Syria, who had an exceptional second 2022 qualification round with an almost unbeaten run throughout, have, in Round Three, failed to live up to the hype their recent performance promised. So far, the squad has lost three out of four games and managed just a single draw against the UAE. Iraq will undoubtedly be hoping to take the full three points from their match against Syria and inch past the UAE into fourth place in the standings; the UAE has had a variable tournament to date and is up against Asian heavyweights South Korea on the 11th.
On November 16th, Iraq will take on South Korea. Second in the standings on eight points and two points behind Iran in first place, South Korea will be big fish to fry. However, Iraq’s last meeting with the South Koreans (away in Seoul) ended in a goalless draw. The Iraqis can, therefore, enter their bout with the Koreans with a certain amount of confidence. During their October window face-off, the squads stout defending made sure the South Koreans took just a single point from the game. If Iraq can maintain a solid defence on the 16th and interject some attacking play that can be converted, they may stand a chance against Asia’s fourth top team and one of the favourites to win the group.
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