Soccer: Oceania mini-tournament to decide World Cup playoff qualifier

FILE PHOTO: The tournament's official logo for the 2022 Qatar World Cup is seen on the Doha Tower, in Doha, Qatar, September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoun

(Reuters) - Oceania will stage a nine-team tournament in Qatar in March to decide which team advances to an intercontinental playoff for a spot at the World Cup finals, FIFA said on Monday.

The winner of the March 14-30 competition will face the fourth-placed team from the CONCACAF region, which features sides from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Oceania does not have an automatic place at the finals.

New Zealand were the last country from the region to qualify for the World Cup when they appeared in South Africa in 2010. They missed out on a place in Russia in 2018 after losing to Peru in a playoff.

Cook Islands and Tonga will play for a slot in the group phase of the Oceania tournament, with the winner taking their place alongside New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island, Tahiti and Vanuatu.

The group phase draw takes place later on Monday.

American Samoa and Samoa withdrew due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Teams will be drawn into two groups of four with the top two advancing to the semi-finals at the end of the single round-robin phase.

FIFA have granted the Oceania Football Confederation a one-day extension to the March international window, which is due to run from March 21-29, to allow teams to call up overseas-based players from the final round of group matches onwards.

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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