Czech Republic join both Poland and Sweden in insisting they WON’T play Russia in next month’s World Cup play-offs… with FIFA facing pressure to take action after the invasion of Ukraine
- Russia, Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic are all involved in Path B of the European play-offs next month for winter World Cup
- Russia face Poland in play-off semi-final in Moscow and winner will play victor in Sweden vs Czech Republic
- Czech Republic have joined Poland and Sweden in insisting they won’t face Russia
Czech Republic have joined Poland and Sweden in insisting they won’t face Russia in a potential World Cup play-off next month.
Czech Republic are currently due to play Sweden on March 24 as they fight for their place at the Qatar World Cup.
The winners of that match are then scheduled to face the winners of Russia’s clash with Poland – to decide who will make the tournament which kicks-off in November.
President of the Polish FA, Cezary Kulesza, said they would not play the semi-final ‘in light of the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine – this is the only right decision.’
Czech Republic have now posted a statement on their Twitter account in which they have agreed that it’s ‘not possible to play against the Russian national team.
They wrote: ‘The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it’s not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue. We all want the war to end as soon as possible.’
Russian troops entered Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv overnight with fierce fighting breaking out after president Vladimir Putin was said to be ‘raging’ at his stalled invasion.
Czech Republic have announced they won’t play Russia in a potential World Cup play-off match next month
Robert Lewandowski, Poland’s all-time record scorer, backed his country’s decision to withdraw from their match against Russia on March 24.
Lewandowski was among many Polish players to support his FA’s stance. ‘I can’t imagine a match with the Russian national team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,’ said the Bayern Munich striker.
‘Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend nothing is happening.’
Former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, now with Juventus, whose wife was born in Ukraine, said: ‘I refuse to play against players who choose to represent the values and principles of Russia. I refuse to take part in an event that legitimates the actions of the Russian government.’
Poland were scheduled to play Russia on March 24 with the winner then facing the victor of Sweden v Czech Republic
Robert Lewandowski agreed with his country’s decision to not play Russia in their World Cup play-off
The three nations also wrote a letter to FIFA saying they won’t play their play-offs in Russia.
Original plans were for Russia to host Poland, with Sweden hosting the Czech Republic. Russia then would have been the host for the match between the two victors.
FIFA are looking at the situation with ‘urgency’, president Gianni Infantino revealed on Thursday, and while revealing hopes of a resolution by March, the body is yet to respond to the request of the three countries.
‘FIFA condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts,’ a statement on Thursday read.
Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden wrote a letter stating that the qualifiers should not be played in Russia
‘Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue.
‘FIFA also continues to express our solidarity to the people affected by this conflict. Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be communicated in due course.’
Scotland are also set to host Ukraine at Hampden Park in the same stage of the road to Qatar play-offs next month but the fixture is in doubt after the Ukrainian football league was paused for at least 30 days.
UEFA took one match away from Russia but refused to boot them out of qualifying after meeting on Friday
UEFA meanwhile have taken some form of action in response to the crisis by stripping Saint Petersburg of the Champions League final, with the Stade de France in Paris now set to host the event in May.
Ukrainians have been urged to defend Kharkiv with guns and Molotov cocktails after Russian troops breached the centre.
Putin meanwhile has praised special forces for ‘heroically carrying out their military duties,’ despite their invasion of Ukraine falling well behind their planned time-line.