World Cup play-offs to be one-off ties

·2-min read

FIFA have confirmed the World Cup 2022 inter-confederation qualifying play-offs will be played as one-off matches at a neutral venue.

The decision means the Socceroos will be denied a sold-out home tie were they to be forced into the play-offs. But they will also avoid a hostile away leg as has been encountered in the past.

Although the participants will not be known for some months yet FIFA will make the draw on November 26 at their Zurich headquarters.

The matches themselves, featuring one nation each from Asia, South America, Oceania and the North American confederations, will take place on 13 and 14 June 2022.

FIFA will make the World Cup tournament draw before then, on April 1 in Doha.

It has been speculated the matches will be in Qatar, but as that would be in the middle of the summer in extreme heat a European venue is perhaps more likely. Wherever it is it is unlikely to be a friendly time for Australian television viewers, though a European venue would attract support from Australians overseas.

Australia has twice needed the inter-confederation play-offs to win through to the World Cup in its last four appearances.

In 2005, the Socceroos ended a 32-year World Cup drought by beating Uruguay on penalties after a two-legged play-off, and in 2017 Mile Jedinak's hat-trick saw Australia past Honduras en route to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.

On both occasions more than 77,000 people packed into Homebush Stadium for the final leg, providing the final push for Australia's qualifying effort.

After losing play-offs to Uruguay (2001), Iran (1997), Argentina (1993) and Scotland (1985), Australia could be forced into another inter-confederation play-off next year to reach Qatar.

Graham Arnold's side currently sit third in their qualifying group.

If the Socceroos remain there they will play the third-placed team from the other Asian qualifying pool, with the winner progressing to the final play-off.

The decision is unlikely to be welcomed by Football Australia.

Given limited success at World Cup finals, the home play-off legs against Uruguay and Honduras are two of the most memorable occasions in Australian football history.

The play-off also brings bumper pay-days for hosting countries.

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