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FIFA rejig Oceania World Cup qualifying

FIFA has changed the format of the World Cup qualification tournament for the Oceania region after the Cook Islands and Vanuatu withdrew due to cases of COVID-19 that affected their national teams.

Both the Cook Islands and Vanuatu were in Group A but FIFA said on Wednesday all matches involving the two teams “shall be deemed to have not taken place”.

That leaves the other two teams in the group, Solomon Islands and Tahiti, to play their group fixture on Thursday, which will be considered a single playoff match to determine the winner and runner-up of Group A.

If the match ends in a draw, they will play extra time and go to penalties if needed.

New Zealand have already advanced from Group B, with Papua New Guinea and Fiji – level on three points each – fighting for the second spot when they face each other.

Oceania, which does not have an automatic spot at the World Cup, is staging a mini-tournament in Doha to decide which team advances to an intercontinental playoff for a place at the finals.

The winners of the March 17-30 competition will face the fourth-placed team from the CONCACAF region, which features sides from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

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