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China to transfer hosting of World Cup qualifiers to Dubai

HONG KONG — China will transfer its hosting of the remaining Asia group A soccer World Cup qualifying matches to Dubai due to COVID-19 controls, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said on Monday.

China was set to host matches between Maldives, Syria, Guam, Philippines and China in Suzhou, where organizers had created a so-called sport bubble that would have allowed overseas players and officials into the eastern city without undergoing quarantine.

However, the CFA said the city could no longer host the matches due to recent COVID-19 infections within the national soccer teams of Maldives and Syria. According to Chinese rules, players from those two countries would have to undergo quarantine and would not be able to participate in the games as scheduled, the CFA said.

China is currently second in Group A and has three remaining games against Maldives, Philippines and Syria.

Only the winners of Asia’s eight groups are guaranteed to advance to the next round of the region’s preliminaries along with the four runners-up with the best records.

In his debut match in charge of China’s national team, former Everton player Li Tie led Team Dragon to a 7-0 win against Guam on Sunday.

Nearly 30,000 football-starved fans were in attendance for the match and watched Spain-based striker Wu Lei and naturalized forward Alan Carvalho both score twice. — Reuters

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