World Cup Forces Delay To AFC Champions League Final

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In this file photo taken on May 7, 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate scoring a goal during the AFC Champions League group stage football match between China's Beijing Guoan and South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Beijing. STR / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 7, 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate scoring a goal during the AFC Champions League group stage football match between China’s Beijing Guoan and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Beijing. STR / AFP

 

The final stages of this year’s Asian Champions League have been moved to 2023 to allow the region’s national teams to prepare for the rescheduled Qatar World Cup, officials said Thursday.

The decider of Asia’s premier club competition will be played over two legs on February 19 and 26 next year, governing body the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said.

The knockout-stage matches for the west zone — which comprises mainly Middle Eastern clubs — will also take place in February 2023, in a centralised venue.

East zone clubs — from countries including Japan, South Korea and Australia — will play group-stage and knockout matches this year at a centralised venue, wrapping up in August, the AFC said.

A major factor behind the revised schedule is the Qatar World Cup, which has been moved to winter months — November and December — to avoid the summer heat of the Gulf country.

“The Asian teams who are likely to qualify… are expected to put in place extensive preparation plans for the competition and a need was felt to facilitate such tune-ups,” the AFC said.

The body also cited uncertainty caused by the Omicron Covid-19 variant, which is driving new outbreaks worldwide and has prompted some Asian countries to implement new travel curbs.

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