While the name may suggest otherwise, the 2023 AFC Asian Cup may not actually take place in 2023.
Three years after the World Health Organisation set up its first Incident Management Support Team, the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to affect the scheduling of sporting competitions (which, admittedly, is the least important impact of the disease).
So, if not as originally advertised, when is the next AFC Asian Cup, where will it be held and who will be there? Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming competition to decide the best national team in Asia.
In June 2019, six months before COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China won the bid for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. As late as January 2021, the dates were confirmed for the summer of 2023.
However, in May 2022, China relinquished their hosting rights given the country’s ongoing approach to tackling COVID-19. Five months later, Qatar beat out bids from the football associations of Indonesia and South Korea to host the next Asian Cup.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa explained that Qatar was a worthy winner given its “existing world-class infrastructure and unrivalled hosting capabilities”.
Qatar was widely criticised for the country’s human rights record ahead of the men’s World Cup which the nation hosted in November and December, with the Australian team releasing a joint statement to condemn their hosts.
The AFC declined to confirm the competition dates when announcing a new host. The Qatar Football Association proposed that the competition – originally scheduled for June and July 2023 – be pushed back to 24 January 2024 according to Reuters.
The competition will last a month thereafter. If the tournament is moved to the aforementioned date, the Asian Cup would overlap with the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. Both tournaments would take place midway through the 2023/24 seasons for most European leagues – including the Premier League – potentially robbing clubs of Asian and African internationals at the same time.
24 teams have qualified for the 18th edition of the AFC Asian Cup. 46 nations began the qualification process in June 2019, with some countries going through as many as three rounds of matches before the final double dozen was decided by the summer of 2022.
Below are all the qualified nations: