Russia will take part in a match against Poland next month to decide which team will take one of the final European qualifying spots for this year’s soccer World Cup.
On Saturday, the Polish football federation announced that it would not be playing the game.
As a rule of thumb, that means they’re out of the competition and Russia will advance to play at the World Cup. However, with Russia’s assault on Ukraine, FIFA now has a big decision to make.
Sweden, a potential future Russian opponent in the knockout stages, later said it would also refuse to play Russia “no matter where the match is played”.
Russia will take on Poland in the knockout round semi-finals on March 24, with the winners going on to face Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place in the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
The Czech Republic joined Sweden and Poland on Friday in saying they would not play on Russian soil either.
The Polish, Czech and Swedish Football Federation said: “The military escalation we are observing has serious consequences and significantly reduces the safety of national football teams. our official delegations and countries,” the football federations of Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden said in a statement.
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski, arguably the best striker in the world, has backed the move even though it could cost his team a spot at the top of the game. “Sound decision!” Lewandowski wrote on Twitter. “I cannot imagine playing a match against the Russian national team in a situation where armed aggression in Ukraine continues.”
Putin showed his worth at the World Cup by organizing a corruption campaign to secure the right to host the tournament in 2018.