Russia is one of a dozen European national soccer teams set to participate in World Cup qualifying play-offs next month. But with the country in the midst of an invasion of Ukraine, several of their opponents are set to boycott playing there.
On Thursday, the soccer associations for Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic announced that they will not travel to Russia for World Cup play-offs. The Poland team is scheduled to travel to Moscow for a play-off game on March 24. If Russia wins, they would host the winner of Sweden-Czech Republic on March 29.
“Based on the current alarming development in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine including the security situation… the playoff matches to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for 24 and 29 March 2022, should not be played in the territory of the Russian Federation.
“The signatories to this appeal do not consider traveling to Russia and playing football matches there. The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations.”
Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic say they will not travel to Russia for World Cup play-offshttps://t.co/EFgWjkqiVs
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) February 24, 2022
The three football associations are taking a pretty big gamble here. If FIFA and UEFA compel the teams to play in Russia and they refuse, they risk forfeiting the game – and their World Cup spot.
But with UEFA already moving the venue of the 2022 Champions League Final, it seems like there are strong odds that they’ll get their wish.
The bigger concern right now might be whether the Russian team is able to leave Russia to play next month.
Will the Russian invasion of Ukraine cost them a trip to the World Cup?