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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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