Poland and Sweden refuse to play Russia in World Cup qualifying play-off next month due to Ukraine invasion

Robert Lewandowski Poland 2021Getty Images

Poland will not play their World Cup qualifying play-off tie against Russia because of the nation's recent invasion of Ukraine, according to the head of the national federation.

The two sides are set to go head-to-head on March 24 - with the game scheduled to take place in Moscow - with the winner going on to meet Sweden or Czech Republic.

However due to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, Poland are refusing to participate in the encounter.

What has been said?

The head of Poland's Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, tweeted: "No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Poland and Russia.

"This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the Swedish and Czech Republic federations to present a common position to FIFA."

Players back Polish FA decision

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski says he agrees with the decision to refuse to play against Russia.

He tweeted: "It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian national team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.

"Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening."

The Bayern Munich star also voiced his support for the Ukrainian people on social media, saying: "Everything that is beautiful in sports is contradictory to what war brings. For all people who value freedom and peace, this is a time of solidarity with the victims of military aggression against Ukraine."

Several other Polish players also voiced their support, with many - including Aston Villa defender Matty Cash and Southampton centre-back Jan Bednarek - posting a joint statement to their social media.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny posted a heartfelt message to Instagram, saying that he has family in Ukraine and that he totally supports boycotting the fixture.

He wrote: "My wife was born in Ukraine, there is Ukrainian blood running through the veins of my son, part of our family is still in Ukraine, a lot of my workers are Ukrainian and they’re all great people. Seeing the suffering on their faces and fear for their country makes me realise I can’t stand still and pretend that nothing has happened.

"On March 26, we were supposed to play against Russia in a play-off match for 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Although my heart breaks while writing this, my concience will not let me play."

Sweden join Poland in Russia boycott

The Swedish Football Association has also vowed to refuse to play Russia should they meet in the next round, insisting that even moving the game to a neutral venue would not be enough.

Sweden must beat Czech Republic to set up a tie with the winner of the clash between Russia and Poland.

"The Swedish Football Association's board has decided that the Swedish men's national team will not play a possible playoff match against Russia - regardless of where the match is played," a statement read. 

"The Federal Board also urges FIFA to cancel the play-off matches in March in which Russia participates."

Swedish Football Association chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson said: "The illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football exchanges with Russia impossible. We therefore urge FIFA to decide that the playoff matches in March in which Russia participates will be cancelled. But regardless of what FIFA chooses to do, we will not play against Russia in March.

"We have a hard time believing that FIFA will not follow our call. Russia can not join as long as this madness continues."

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FIFA to consider Russia's involvement in World Cup

FIFA president Gianni Infantino admitted on Thursday that the governing body will discuss what to do about the upcoming World Cup qualifying games.

“We continue to monitor the situation," he said on Thursday. "We will update on the World Cup qualifiers soon. We can take decisions immediately as soon as it’s needed.”

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