Syria's home matches have been held in the UAE with the country set to host remaining Group A ties ©Getty Images

United Arab Emirates has stepped in to replace China as the host country for Group A matches as part of the qualification process for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced the UAE will stage the remaining seven Group A ties in the second round of the qualification process.

China had initially been scheduled to stage the matches after being confirmed as the hosts in March.

China held the first match on May 30, where they cruised to a 7-0 victory over Guam at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre.

The Chinese Football Federation said that due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the Maldives and Syria, both teams would be placed under strict quarantine on their arrival in the country, preventing fixtures from taking place as scheduled.

The UAE has stepped in to host the remaining ties and the AFC is expected to confirm a revised match schedule in the coming days.

"These are indeed unprecedented times for everyone, and, on behalf of the AFC, I would like to thank the UAE FA for agreeing to host the Group A matches of the Asian qualifiers," said AFC general secretary Dato’ Windsor John.

"The UAE FA’s commitment to host the matches within such a short lead time is testament to their spirit of understanding and organisational excellence, and we are confident that they will provide the best possible environment for our teams and players.

"The AFC outlined its desire to ensure the safe and successful resumption of the Asian Qualifiers and we are determined to deliver on our plans, keeping in mind the highest health protocols, for the benefit of all our participating teams, players, fans and key stakeholders."

China overcame Guam in a home game, but other Group A fixtures will be held in the UAE ©Getty Images
China overcame Guam in a home game, but other Group A fixtures will be held in the UAE ©Getty Images

The UAE has already held Group A matches during the qualification process as the home venue for Syria due to security concerns in their country.

Syria are top of the standings with five consecutive victories, which puts them on course to advance to the third round of qualification and a guaranteed spot at the 2023 Asian Cup.

China are five points adrift in second place, which would be enough for a place in the third qualifying round for Qatar 2022 and a possible Asian Cup berth.

The Chinese team have a three-point cushion over third placed Philippines, with Maldives a further point back.

The top four teams have played five of their eight matches to date, with Guam bottom of the standings after losing all six of their fixtures.

"The UAE FA is delighted to host the Group A matches of the Asian qualifiers in the spirit of Asian unity and solidarity," said UAE FA secretary general Mohammed Hazzam Al Dhaheri.

"We have demonstrated with the AFC Champions League (West) in Sharjah the capabilities of the United Arab Emirates in staging world-class competitions.

"In addition, we are hosting more than 14 national teams’ camps and international friendly matches in preparations for the World Cup qualifiers, which proves the advanced football infrastructure in the UAE.

"We look forward to welcoming the participating teams and being the only country in Asia to hosts two groups of the Asian qualifiers."

The UAE is also hosting Group G matches, where the hosts will feature alongside Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

The Group G ties are scheduled to take place at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium and the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai.

Vietnam top the standings on 11 points from five games, with Malaysia and Thailand following on nine and eight, respectively.

The UAE are fourth on six points but have a game in hand on their rivals, while Indonesia are bottom after five consecutive defeats.

The AFC opted for centralised venues earlier this year as the organisation battles to complete its qualification process amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twelve teams will advance from the eight groups to the next round of qualifying, which also serves as Asian Cup qualification.

Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and South Korea are also holding groups.