The OFC confirmed the format for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers Monday.
“The preliminary competition will be played as a mini-tournament and held in Qatar between March 14-30 next year, allowing for a minimum of two rest days between games, as well as before the first game following long distance travel,” a statement from the OFC reads.
The decision to host the preliminary competition in Qatar came after no OFC Member Association was able to receive approval from their government to host the centralised tournament in their country, due to restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Therefore, FIFA’s Bureau of the Council approved OFC’s request to add an additional day to the existing International Match Calendar window (which runs from March 21-29) for the preliminary competition, meaning it will now run from March 21-30 and see the mandatory release of players for the last group-stage match, semi-finals and final of the preliminary competition.”
The nations that will take part are: The Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu.
American Samoa and Samoa have both withdrawn due to the coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions.
The qualifying stage will be a single match between the Cook Islands and Tonga, the two lowest-ranked participating OFC nations in the FIFA rankings with the winner advancing to the group stage.
“The group stage will then see eight teams (being the winner of the qualification stage match and the other seven nations) drawn into two groups of four, with each team playing each of their group opponents once (single round-robin, with three group matches for each team),” the statement reads.
The winner and runner-up from each group qualify for a single leg semi-final match, with the two winners advancing to a single leg final match.
The overall winner qualifies for the intercontinental play-off against a nation from Concacaf (North and Central America and the Caribbeans) on June 13 or 14 2022.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ OFC Preliminary Draw will be held in Zurich, Switzerland on Tuesday, November 30 at 9.00am NZT.