Czech Republic join Poland, Sweden in refusing to play Russia in 2022 World Cup playoffs

The Czech Republic joined Poland and Sweden on Sunday in refusing to play Russia in the 2022 World Cup qualifying next month in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Czech Republic are potential opponents for Russia in next month's playoffs. Russia are set to face Poland on March 24 and the winner of that match is due to host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 for a place at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Czech soccer association's executive committee said it "unanimously approved a decision that the Czech national team will not in any case play Russia."

The soccer federations of Poland and Sweden made the same decision on Saturday.

The executive committee asked Czech soccer federation head Petr Fousek to lead negotiations with UEFA and FIFA about the Czech position.

"The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it's not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue," the federation said in a statement. "We all want the war to end as soon as possible."

Earlier this week, the Football Associations of Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic released a statement urging FIFA to stage any World Cup playoff against Russia outside of the country following its attack on Ukraine.

In a letter addressed to the FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura, the three associations wrote: "Based on the current alarming development in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, including the security situation the Football Associations of Poland (PZPN), Sweden (SvFF) and Czech Republic (FACR) express their firm position that the playoff matches to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for March 24 and 29, 2022, should not be played in the territory of the Russian Federation.

"The signatories to this appeal do not consider travelling to Russia and playing football matches there. The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations.

"Therefore, we expect FIFA and UEFA to react immediately and to present alternative solutions regarding places where these approaching playoff matches could be played."

On Thursday, FIFA said in a statement that the "hope for rapid cessation of hostilities and peace in Ukraine."

"Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue. FIFA also continues to express its solidarity to the people affected by this conflict," FIFA said. "Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, FIFA will continue to monitor the situation and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 202 qualifiers will be communicated in due course."

Information from AP was used in this report.