South American World Cup qualifying start pushed back to October

PARIS (AFP) – South American qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, has been pushed back a month and will start in October, world football governing body FIFA said on Friday.

The first two rounds of matches at the end of March could not be played due to football being suspended on the continent over the deadly virus.

In April, South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL said the qualification campaign would begin in September, when the third and fourth rounds of matches were originally due to be played.

The competition will now begin in October on what was the fifth round of matches in the original programme.

It means that the two governing bodies must find space in a fixture calendar already crammed due to the delays provoked by the coronavirus for four rounds of international qualifiers.

“The CONMEBOL Council has today requested FIFA to include a replacement international window in January 2022 in the International Match Calendar in order to complete the South American qualifiers in March 2022,” said FIFA in a statement.

South American qualifiers are played on a home and away round robin basis involving all 10 member nations, meaning they must each play 18 matches.

It was originally due to end in November 2021.