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Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic will refuse to play World Cup play-offs with Russia in opposition to invasion of Ukraine

The winners of Russia vs Poland are due to play Sweden or Czech Republic for a place at the finals; Polish FA says: "No more words, it's time to act"; Polish FA have also offered to host all Ukraine home matches; Sweden and Czech Republic refuse to play Russia at any venue

Poland fans

Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic will refuse to play their forthcoming World Cup play-offs with Russia in March following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Poland are due to play in Russia on March 25, with the winner facing Sweden or the Czech Republic four days later for a place in the finals in Qatar in November.

Sweden have announced they will not play Russia at any venue and have urged FIFA to cancel Russia's upcoming game with Poland in March.

The Czech FA said on Sunday that they too would not fulfil any fixture with Russia, regardless of the venue, and called for an end to the war in Ukraine.

The Polish FA have also offered to host all Ukraine home matches while Ukraine are unable to play in their own country. Ukraine are due to play Scotland in their World Cup play-off at Hampden Park on March 24, and the winner will play either Wales or Austria in Cardiff or Vienna on March 29.

A Polish FA spokesman told Sky Sports News: "No more words, it's 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 Russia.

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

Poland's top scorer Robert Lewandowski 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 Czech FA's statement read: "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."

A FIFA spokesperson told Sky Sports News they are monitoring the situation and an update about the game would be communicated in due course.

Aston Villa and Poland full-back Matty Cash shared a statement on behalf of other national team players, revealing one of their Poland team-mates, Tomasz Kedziora, who plays for Dynamo Kiev, is still in Ukraine.

"We, the players of the Polish national team, together with the Polish Football Association, decided that as a result of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, we do not intend to play in the play-off match against Russia," Cash said.

"It is not an easy decision but there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kiev with his family."

It comes a day after Thomas Tuchel said he understands criticism directed towards Chelsea in response to the ongoing Russian invasion.

After Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on Tuesday, Labour MP Chris Bryant told the House of Commons Chelsea owner and Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich should have his assets seized, questioned whether he should be allowed to operate a football club himself and quoted a leaked government document suggesting he should not be allowed to be based in the UK.

Latest developments as sport reacts to Ukraine situation

  • UEFA has moved the Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris
  • Europe's governing body is also under pressure to end sponsorship from Russian energy giant Gazprom
  • Manchester United have dropped Russian state airline Aeroflot as a sponsor
  • Players will be free to protest against the war in Ukraine without fear of punishment, so long as displays are not offensive
  • FIFA remain undecided over World Cup play-off matches involving Ukraine and Russia
  • F1 has announced the Russian Grand Prix will be cancelled
  • The Haas team joined F1 testing on Friday with its cars missing the logo of Russian sponsor Uralkali

Ahead of Sunday's Carabao Cup final against Liverpool, Tuchel told reporters the situation in Ukraine, and the potential consequences, was "clouding" his squad's thoughts and defended their desire to focus on football as the conflict escalated.

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Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel says the situation in Ukraine has had an effect on their preparations for Sunday's Carabao Cup final. Watch the full interview on Sunday's build up to the EFL Cup final against Liverpool.

He said: "We shouldn't pretend this is not an issue. The situation for everyone here is horrible. Nobody expected this, it's pretty unreal. It's clouding our minds and our excitement towards the final. It brings huge uncertainty, much more to all people in the moment more involved than us. We send our best wishes and regards to them, obviously."

On Saturday, Abramovich revealed he was handing "stewardship" of Chelsea to its charitable foundation, although he remains the club's owner.

Players free to protest amid Ukraine crisis

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino says they have a duty to monitor the consequences of the Ukraine crisis on football

Players, fans and football clubs will be free to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine without fear of punishment from the Football Association (FA), Premier League or English Football League - so long as those displays are not offensive or overtly political.

As the governing body, the FA has jurisdiction in these matters, and there are clear kit and advertising regulations that prohibit the use of threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting, discriminatory, political or religious messages.

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Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitaliy Mykolenko embrace before Everton take on Manchester City as Goodison Park puts on a show of unity to support Ukraine

But there is widespread feeling among officials that displays of support for Ukraine should not be judged in this light.

It is not an offence to display a nation's flag on shirts or inside a stadium - and Sky Sports News has been told many clubs in the UK are considering adopting the Ukraine flag in some capacity during this weekend's matches in a show of solidarity.

The FA considers issues such as this on a case-by-case basis, and given its support for initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, punishing messages of support for Ukraine's people would seem at odds with the organisation's overall ethos.

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Ukrainian number one and world number 15 tennis player Elina Svitolina has said that she is praying for her people and the situation in Ukraine is a terrible nightmare

The FA took "a common sense approach" back in the summer of 2020, when it became clear large numbers of professional players wanted to take a knee in a show of unity against racial inequality, following the killing of George Floyd in America.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the time said the players "deserved applause" for the stance they took.

Similarly, football's authorities are not now expected to punish players or clubs who speak out on the situation in Eastern Europe.

Disciplinary action is expected only if an action is deemed offensive, provocative or overtly political.

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