Russian Football Union reacts to pleas for FIFA to cancel matches
The Russian Football Union (RFU) has responded to calls from World Cup qualifying rivals Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who have revealed they will not play against Russia in crucial ties in the race to reach the Qatar 2022 tournament in November and December.
Poland are scheduled to face Russia in Moscow on March 24 in the qualifier semifinals. If Russia are successful, the winner of Sweden and the Czech Republic's concurrent game in Stockholm must then head to the Russian capital to face them in a March 29 final.
With all three opposition countries stating over the weekend that they will not play against Russia in any circumstances – after first sending a letter to FIFA on Thursday demanding a change of venue – the RFU has released a statement of its own.
"At the moment, the RFU has not received any information from FIFA about the possibility of postponing or canceling the matches of the qualifying round of the World Cup," said the RFU.
"We do not see any legal grounds for canceling the playoff between the national teams of Russia and Poland and the subsequent meeting with one of the teams of the Sweden-Czech Republic pairing. The RFU continues to prepare for these games.
"The RFU is ready to provide all the necessary guarantees for holding these and other football matches on the territory of the Russian Federation with a high level of organization and compliance with all necessary security measures."
FIFA announced shortly afterwards that Russia will be required to play home matches on neutral territory and without supporters in a range of measures in response to the military operation in Ukraine.
Russia will be ordered to compete in FIFA competitions under the title 'Football Union of Russia.'
That could mean Valeri Karpin's side will be allowed to head to the World Cup if they qualify, although the President of the French Football Federation earlier said he would not object to Russia being ruled out of the finals.
The English FA also released a statement saying that no England teams will play Russia "for the foreseeable future" as an act of "solidarity with Ukraine".
The flag and anthem of Russia will also not be used in any matches organized by the governing body of world football.
A UEFA ruling on Friday also moved the Champions League final in May from St. Petersburg to Paris and ordered the Russian national team and club teams to play games in neutral settings.