'Almost unthinkable': Sweden on 2022 FIFA World Cup play-off against Russia
- There is a possible scenario that Sweden may play Russia with a place in the Qatar World Cup at stake
- In that case, the match would take place in Russia on March 29
- In the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, there have been suggestions that Russia should be taken out of the reckoning for World Cup qualification
A 2022 FIFA World Cup play-off clash with Russia is “almost unthinkable” at this stage, said Karl-Erik Nilsson, the president of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF). The decision came after Russia attacked Ukraine in an unprecedented move on Thursday, February 24.
With the winner of a meeting between Russia and Poland on March 24 due to face the winner of the tie between Sweden and the Czech Republic, two high-profile fixtures could take place on Russian soil.
Wins for Sweden and Russia would mean the two sides meeting in Russia on March 29, with a place at the Qatar World Cup at stake. "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," Karl-Erik Nilsson told Reuters. "As it looks here and now, today, there is absolutely no desire to play a football match in Russia," he added.
Nilsson said that he had not been in touch with his Ukrainian counterparts following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Out 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," he said.
There have been suggestions that Russia should be taken out of the reckoning for World Cup qualification, but Nilsson says it is too early to be making decisions of such magnitude.
“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.”
Also Read: Russia-Ukraine crisis: What is martial law?
He added when quizzed on whether the desires of those in Ukraine could shape football’s response to an escalating conflict: “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.”
Ireland to welcome Ukraine for a play-off
Meanwhile, 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.
They also have UEFA Nations League outings to come in the summer, with the Republic of Ireland due to visit Lviv on June 14.
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.
“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.”