China’s inability to play World Cup qualifiers at home means it will ‘host’ the Socceroos in Sharjah later this month.
The Socceroos will return to the Middle East following their Sydney clash against Saudi Arabia, with confirmation their World Cup qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates.
The Australians will play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they host the Saudis – who top Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday week.
However, while Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted to allow the Socceroos to again play at home, it’s a different case in China.
As a result, the Chinese national team must continue to play its home matches on foreign soil.
China will “host” the Socceroos in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, November 17 (AEDT) at the 18,000-capacity Sharjah Stadium.
The Socceroos will have no qualms about playing the match in the UAE after winning a host of games in the Middle East in the past two years.
However, the timing of the match against China isn’t good for A-League champions Melbourne City, who start their title defence on Friday, November 19 at AAMI Park against Brisbane Roar.
City’s star attackers, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, are all expected to be named in Graham Arnold’s latest Socceroos squad, set to be announced on Friday.
Any City players chosen in the squad face a tight turnaround in their bid to play in the opening match of the A-League season.
City faced a similar situation in last season’s finals series, but managed to defy the absence of Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – who were on Socceroos duty in Kuwait – to win the title.
Socceroos coach Arnold arrived back in Australia on Monday after a stint of almost six months overseas.
Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant and Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis – the only two A-League players in the Socceroos squad for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan – are both out of quarantine and training with their clubs.
The Socceroos, whose 11-game winning streak was ended by Japan, are in second place in Group B, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have a perfect record of 12 points from four matches.
China has just three points from four matches, with only Vietnam behind them on the Group B ladder.
The top two teams from Group A and Group B will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Originally published as The Socceroos’ road to next year’s World Cup will take them to Sharjah to meet China