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World Cup play-off against Russia almost unthinkable amid Ukraine invasion – Swedish FA

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The Swedish Football Association has said it is unfathomable to play their crucial 2022 FIFA world cup qualifier against Russia amidst the crisis between Russia and Ukraine .

Even as a Russian military invasion of Ukraine is now underway, sporting activities will certainly be affected, with Russia due to take part in world cup qualification matches.

But the chairman of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) says that a clash with Russia is “almost unthinkable” at this stage, following the decision of Vladimir Putin to send troops into Ukraine.

With the winner of a meeting between Russia and Poland on March 24 due to face the winners of a tie involving Sweden and the Czech Republic, the two home fixtures could take place on Russian soil.

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Karl-Erik Nilsson, chairman of the Swedish FA, says that his country would find it difficult to make such a trip.

He told Reuters: “It’s a possible scenario. Spontaneously around the feelings we have as we wake up this morning are that it is almost unthinkable that we in a few weeks would play a football match in Russia.

“As it looks here and now, today, there is absolutely no desire to play a football match in Russia.”

He added: “Our thoughts go to our friends in Ukraine over the situation they woke up to today, it’s awful. Football should be seen as something of less importance in the middle of this inferno.”

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There are suggestions at the moment that Russia be taken out of World Cup qualification, but Nilsson says it is too early to be making decisions of such magnitude.

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“I believe that [in these situations] much is called for very quickly – we will need to live and socialise even in the future, and I think we shouldn’t be too quick with solutions.” The 64-year-old former referee said.

“Instead, we should take our time and see what actions are needed. For the moment we are looking forward to arms being laid down and that peace and freedom come into existence.”

“It’s important that the requests come from Ukraine.

“At the moment they have a lot more to think about than football, but a future will arrive one day and we must show solidarity with our football friends around Europe.”

Ukraine are also due to be in play-off action on March 24, when they face Scotland for the right to take on Wales or Austria in the Path A final before facing Ireland in Lyiv on June 14.

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The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has said in a statement relating to that fixture: “The FAI will continue to communicate on an ongoing basis with our Government, our colleagues at UEFA and the Ukraine Association of Football with regards to the latest developments and the implications for the Ukraine v Republic of Ireland fixture in the UEFA Nations League, currently fixed for Lviv on Tuesday, June 14th.

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“The FAI will also welcome Ukraine to Dublin on June 4th for the opening fixture in the UEFA Nations League campaign. The FAI awaits the outcome of the UEFA ExCo meeting on Friday, February 25th which has been called to discuss the current situation in the Ukraine.”