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Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic refuse to play Russia in FIFA World Cup qualifiers: ‘We all want war to end’

The reverberations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue to ripple across the sports world. What will happen in UEFA World Cup qualifying just got a little murkier as Poland were slated to play Russia with the winner of the match taking on the winner of Sweden against Czech Republic. Initially, those teams released a statement that they would not travel to Russia for these matches leaving FIFA with a decision to make. Now they’ve taken their stance even further.

“In light of the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Polish national team is not going to play a match against the Russian Republic,” federation president Cezary Kulesza said on Twitter.

“This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the Swedish and Czech association to present a common position to FIFA.”

The Swedish federation released a statement backing Poland’s decision that was short but to the point, and a day later, the Czech FA joined the fray.

“The men’s national team will not play against Russia — regardless of where the match is played. The Federal Board also urges FIFA to cancel the play-off matches in March in which Russia participates.”

“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,” said the Czech FA statement released on Twitter.

These steps came after FIFA president Gianni Infantino refused to commit to a plan of action on Thursday, instead hoping that things would blow over. “The first match is one month from now and of course we hope that this whole situation will be solved before then — well before then, as soon as possible, he said. “We want to strongly believe in that. But we have a body in place, the bureau, who can take a decision at any time. We are analyzing the situation and we will take the decision when we have to take it.”

Poland’s players took to twitter to express their support for the decision to not play Russia. Bayern Munich’s superstar striker Robert Lewandowski said, “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

The ball is back in Infantino’s court but it’s clear that waiting to make a decision won’t be acceptable as federations are taking things into their own hands. Even with matches still a month away, a solution needs to be found. 

UEFA World Cup qualifying schedule

March 24
Russia vs. Poland, 1 p.m. ET
Sweden vs. Czech Republic, 3:45 p.m. ET

March 29
Winner of Russia/Poland vs. Winner of Sweden/Czech Republic

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