Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic oppose World Cup qualifiers in Russia

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FIFA's logo is seen at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files

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Feb 24 (Reuters) - Russia should not be allowed to host World Cup qualifiers next month after its invasion of Ukraine, the football associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic said on Thursday.

Russia is due to host Poland in the semi-finals of its strand of the World Cup playoffs on March 24 and, if its team advances, is scheduled to host either Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 in the Path B final.

"The Football Associations of Poland (PZPN), Sweden (SvFF) and Czech Republic (FACR) express their firm position that the playoff matches... should not be played in the territory of the Russian Federation," they said in a joint statement.

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"The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations," they added.

The associations said they expected world soccer governing body FIFA and European body UEFA to react immediately and to come up with alternate venues.

FIFA said it would monitor the situation and communicate updates on the qualifiers in due course.

"FIFA condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts. Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue," it said in a statement.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino told a news conference that there was still time for the situation to calm down.

"We will look into it as a matter of urgency," Infantino said.

"The first match is one month from now. We hope this whole situation will be solved before then - well before then, as soon as possible, and we want to strongly believe in that," he added.

SvFF chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson told Reuters on Thursday that playing a World Cup playoff match in Russia was "almost unthinkable". read more

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

Russia is also set to lose the Champions League final this year with UEFA calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee on Friday to move the match from St Petersburg. read more

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Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Simon Evans,; Editing by Alison Williams, Andrew Heavens and Ed Osmond

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