Teams refuse to face Russia in World Cup qualifiers

Russia's football team during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Croatia and Russia in November last year. Photo: Getty Images
Russia's football team during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Croatia and Russia in November last year. Photo: Getty Images
No international soccer matches will be played in Russia and the country's flag and anthem will be banned from any of their matches abroad, governing body FIFA said on Sunday as it announced a number of sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

FIFA said the national team would not compete as Russia but as the Football Union of Russia (RFU) and any games would be held with no fans on "neutral territory".

These come after scores of sports federations and clubs cancelled competitions in Russia or have refused to face Russian teams in protest of the invasion.

The Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden said their national teams would not contest World Cup qualifiers against Russia next month. England's Football Association also said its national team would not play any matches against Russia "for the foreseeable future".

"First and foremost, FIFA would like to reiterate its condemnation of the use of force by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine," FIFA said in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee urged international sports federations on Friday to either move or cancel events planned in Russia or Belarus. Russian troops entered Ukraine through Belarus when the invasion began on Thursday.

FIFA said it would try to find a solution with the three countries --Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic -- involved in the World Cup qualifiers.

"(FIFA) has already engaged in dialogue with all of these football associations. FIFA will remain in close contact to seek to find appropriate and acceptable solutions together."

Ukrainian forces were holding off Russian troops advancing on the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two entered a fourth day.

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