FIFA to suspend Russia from international competition ahead of World Cup qualifier against Poland, per report

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FIFA is in talks over suspending Russia from international football until further notice.

A formal decision is expected from world football’s governing body in the coming hours on Monday. Reuters reports that FIFA is set to announce the suspension of Russia’s international teams. The move comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that all Russian and Belarussian athletes be banned from international events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The IOC’s executive board made the decision “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”

FIFA has come under heavy criticism for its response to Russian actions in Ukraine. Their president Gianni Infantino initially expressed his desire that the conflict would be over in time for the World Cup qualifier between Russia and Poland on March 24 before the FIFA Council announced on Sunday that Russia would be unable to play matches on home soil and must compete under the name “Football Union of Russia.”

Those actions were deemed insufficient by the football associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic — one of the latter two could face Russia in a qualifying match with a place at Qatar 2022 on the line — all of whom reaffirmed their earlier stance that they would not play a team representing the country. That stance was echoed by numerous other European countries with France calling for their expulsion from the World Cup.

U.S. Soccer joined the calls for Russia to play no part in international football. A statement on Monday said: “The U.S. Soccer Federation stands united with the people of Ukraine and is unequivocal in our denunciation of the heinous and inhumane invasion by Russia. We will neither tarnish our global game, nor dishonor Ukraine, by taking the same field as Russia, no matter the level of competition or circumstance, until freedom and peace have been restored. #WeStandWithUkraine.” 

FIFA must still decide how to adjust the qualifying bracket in light of Russia’s removal from the international footballing stage. Poland could be awarded a bye to face the winner of Sweden’s tie with Czech Republic. It is also possible that a third space in the second round of qualifiers could be handed to a team based on their performance in the Nations League; Hungary were the next most successful of these nations after Austria and the Czech Republic. Slovakia, who finished third behind Croatia and Russia in qualifying Group H, could also come under consideration.

Meanwhile, UEFA is working on the removal of the Russian women’s team from this summer’s European Championships in England. European football’s governing body, who on Friday stripped Saint Petersburg of the right to host May’s Champions League final, are also looking to unpick their sponsorship deal with Gazprom, worth a reported $45 million a year. Reports in Germany say that the last remaining Russian in European club competition — Spartak Moscow — could be kicked out, handing RB Leipzig a bye to the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

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