Soccer-FIFA confirms new international dates as fixtures pile up

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ZURICH — FIFA has confirmed a new window for international matches in January 2022 as World Cup qualifying fixtures continue to pile up because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

World soccer’s ruling body said in a statement that the window was ratified by the decision-making FIFA Council on Thursday.

It applies to all continents apart from Europe, will last from Jan. 24 to Feb. 1 2022, and means European clubs will be obliged to release their players during that period.

FIFA has also agreed that the CONCACAF Gold Cup will take place from July 10 to Aug. 1 next year and that the Africa Cup of Nations — postponed from 2021 — will be played in January 2022.

Apart from this month’s UEFA Nations League matches, international football has been on hold since March because of the pandemic, causing widespread disruption to the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Six match days have been postponed in the Asian qualifiers while the South American qualifiers, due to start in March, will not get under way until October at the earliest.

The CONCACAF qualifiers, which should have started this month, will not begin until March. Although the format has been modified, teams could still have to play up to 18 matches to reach Qatar. (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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