The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced Friday that the Socceroos will visit Kathmandu to take on Nepal on March 30 and that the outstanding fixtures in Group B will take place in June in a yet-to-be-confirmed location.
However, Officials at the Jordan Football Association (JFA) told The World Game that as far as they are concerned, those games, seven in total with three involving Graham Arnold’s men, will be held in Australia with the announcement coming in mid-March.
According to the JFA the call was made after video conferences with the AFC and representatives from other Group B teams including Kuwait, Nepal and Taiwan.
The AFC is looking for centralised hubs to host games for all eight groups in the second round of qualification, which was originally scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2020, in order to reduce travel during the ongoing global pandemic.
Australia is seen as a natural choice as the country is perceived to have handled the threat of COVID-19 well and in a football sense, the Socceroos will have played all their away games by the end of March and still have three home fixtures remaining. By contrast, Jordan has none left to play on home soil, Kuwait and Taiwan have only one each with Nepal still with two to play.
A-League clubs had an experience of the hub system in the AFC Champions League last November and December. With the tournament unable to take place along the usual home and away lines, Qatar stepped in to provide a ‘bio-secure bubble’ for all 32 teams.
Players, staff and officials were confined to hotels, training grounds and stadiums amid extensive testing. The 2022 World Cup host earned praise for its efforts as the tournament was completed relatively smoothly.
The deadline to finish the second round, the last action in which took place in November 2019 for most teams, is June 15. The winners of all eight groups and the four best performing runners-up will progress to the third round which kicks off in September.
Australia, looking for a fifth successive appearance at the World Cup, are strong favourites to be included in that dozen after winning all four fixtures so far to sit two points clear of both Kuwait and Jordan with a game in hand. After the trip to Nepal, the Socceroos will take on Kuwait, Taiwan and finish the group against Jordan.