With less than a fortnight to go until the final round of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers gets underway, Iran is yet to know if it will be eligible to play its home fixtures at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is expected to announce its decision within the coming days over the host venues of the matches in two qualification groups.
Iran is to play its opening fixture at home against Syria on September 2 in Group A, which also features South Korea, the UAE, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Iran Football Federation is yet to equip the Azadi Stadium with the video assistant referee (VAR) technology, which will be an obligatory for the remainder of the qualifiers in Asia.
Meanwhile, Hassan Kamranifar, the secretary-general of the federation, said the negotiations are ongoing between the country’s football governing body and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) regarding the payment of Iranian television’s €6 million debt to the AFC over the TV copyrights for the previous continental events.
The AFC’s announcement on Friday that the AFC Champions League fixtures in the West region would be held in a centralized format in Saudi Arabia from the quarterfinals onward, due to coronavirus restrictions, cast further doubts on Iran’s chances to play its home ties in Tehran.
The Iranian federation had bided for hosting the single-legged quarters and semis of the Asian elite clubs’ competition from October 16-19, as well as the final showpiece on November 23.
In its second game at the World Cup qualifiers, Iran will play away to Iraq on September 7, in a repeat of preliminary round encounters between the old foes.
Dragan Skocic’s team will fly to the UAE on October 7 to face Bert van Marwijk’s side, before squaring off against South Korea at home five days later.
The first round of matches for Iran will come to end with an away fixture against Lebanon on November 11.
The group fixtures will finish on March 29 next year, with the top two of each group sealing a place in the finals in Qatar in November next year.
Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, and Vietnam are in Group B.
The winner of a playoff tie between the two third-placed teams will advance to the intercontinental playoff.