FIFA chief reacts to pressure over Russia’s World Cup campaign

Multiple countries have called for crucial World Cup qualifying games to be moved from Russia

FIFA plan to reconsider whether Russia should host crucial World Cup 2022 matches in March “as a matter of urgency” after a petition by Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic, the organization’s President, Gianni Infantino, has said.

Russia are set to host Poland in their World Cup qualifying semifinal on March 24, followed by a final against the winner of the game between the Czech Republic and Sweden on home soil again five days later if they win.

In a joint statement to FIFA’s General Secretary before Infantino spoke to reporters, Poland and the two potential final opponents for Valeri Karpin’s side demanded that the games should be held outside of Russia, citing safety fears because of the military offensive in Ukraine.

The statement asked for immediate action from FIFA and UEFA, who are widely reported to be holding an emergency meeting about switching the Champions League final in May away from St. Petersburg.

“We have a duty to look at this matter seriously, to analyze it,” said Infantino, who attended the 2018 World Cup in Russia as part of his role.

“We will look at it as a matter of urgency. We hope the situation will be solved well before the first match.

“We are constantly reflecting on the role of sport in trying to bring people together in a peaceful environment.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) called on FIFA and UEFA to ban Russia and its teams from their tournaments.

Losing home advantage would be a blow for Russia in their bid to feature at a fourth successive finals.

Only a late defeat to Croatia in Zagreb denied them automatic qualification for the tournament in November and December after an unbeaten group campaign at home.

Russian leaders say that the country’s national security has been compromised by NATO encroachment in Ukraine.

Moscow added that it has a duty to protect the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which it recognized as sovereign states earlier this week, from more attacks by Ukrainian forces.

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