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China cites pandemic and withdraws as host of 2023 Asian Cup

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China withdrew as host of soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup on Saturday in the latest cancellation of the country’s sports hosting duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asian Football Confederation praised Chinese soccer officials for making “this very difficult but necessary decision in the collective interests of the AFC Asian Cup.”

The 24-nation tournament was due to be played in 10 cities in mostly newly built stadiums in June and July of next year.

China’s withdrawal could let Qatar or Saudi Arabia step up as hosts while both are bidding in a contest to host the 2027 edition. India and Iran are also candidates for the 2027 edition with a decision expected early next year.

Qatar has stadiums in place to host the 2022 World Cup kicking off in November. However, a June 2023 start for the Asian Cup could be unlikely because of the

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