China's World Cup qualifier against Vietnam moved to Sharjah
China's 2022 World Cup qualifier next month against Vietnam has been moved to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation said on Monday.
China has been unable to host its matches due to stringent quarantine restrictions put in place by authorities as the country continues to battle against the pandemic.
China has been drawn in Group B of the continent's final round of qualifying for the World Cup alongside Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Oman.
The team was taking on Japan at a neutral venue in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday before its third match on October 7 against Vietnam.
"Similar to the current September window, the decision of a neutral venue was confirmed in light of the ongoing COVID-19 challenges faced by the Chinese Football Association in organizing its home matches," the AFC said in a statement.
Syria's home match against Lebanon in Group A on October 12 will also be held at the neutral venue of the King Abdullah II Stadium in Amman, Jordan, the AFC said.
Syria and Lebanon are placed alongside Iran, UAE, South Korea and Iraq in their group.
The top two sides from each group qualify for Qatar 2022 while the third-placed teams enter a series of playoffs for a possible fifth place for Asian countries.
China's players, meanwhile, have been urged to put the disappointment of losing to Australia behind them and concentrate on preparing for Japan, according to a team official.
China suffered a 0-3 loss to Australia in its first game of the third and final stage of the Asia World Cup qualification last Thursday, hours before Japan arrived in Doha.
"The Japanese team arrived the next morning. We told the news to our players in order to help them get over the defeat to Australia and move their focus on to the upcoming match against Japan," team official Zhang He said on Monday.
Japan, Asia's highest-ranked team at No. 24 in the world which was upset 0-1 by Oman at home last Thursday, will be also under huge pressure entering the clash with China. That loss ended Japan's streak of eight consecutive wins in World Cup qualifying games.
Zhang said that the team has been studying the Japanese team for a long time.
"Our technical staff began to follow Japan, their Europe-based players in particular, after the second round of World Cup Asian qualification finished, and we are preparing for the match against them based on the analysis of their game combined with the problems we showed in the Australia game," he said.
Zhang blamed a lack of quality friendlies for China's unsatisfactory performance against Australia.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, China has not played an international friendly, especially against Asian teams ranked higher than us, for more than a year," he said.
Zhang suggested that China may alter its tactical approach of defending high up the pitch and pressing, which failed the team in the game against Australia, when facing Japan.
"China needs to make prompt adjustments considering the problems exposed in the Australia match," he said.
Japan also has plenty to work on against China following a deserved loss to Oman.
"There are many aspects we need to address, but we must first redeem ourselves from this loss," Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. "While reflecting on the match, we hope to build a positive vibe heading into our next match against China."