Soccer

China puts league on hold to boost World Cup bid

China will put its domestic football league on hold for more than three months to boost the national team’s chances of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in 20 years.

The Chinese Football Association said the league will recommence on July 15 and run until Aug. 12 before taking a break until Dec. 1.

The hiatus will allow national team coach Li Tie to prepare his team for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, with China drawn with Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Vietnam in Group B of the third round of Asia’s preliminaries.

Matches are to be played on a home-and-away basis and with strict quarantine regulations in place in China play in the Chinese Super League (CSL) would be seriously affected.

China, who have not qualified for the World Cup since making their debut in 2002, are scheduled to begin the next phase of qualifying against Australia on Sept. 2.

The CSL had initially been scheduled to resume on June 21 following China’s involvement in the second round of Asian qualifying for Qatar 2022.

However, requirements for the squad to enter quarantine after a last-minute switch saw the qualifiers moved to the United Arab Emirates from Suzhou, resulting in the delay to the domestic league campaign.

CSL games will continue to be played in two groups in centralised biosecure hubs, with the top four in each group advancing to the championship round.

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