Poland refuse to play World Cup play-off against Russia

The Polish Football Association says the national team will boycott its World Cup play-off against Russia in March

Poland are due to play Russia in a World Cup qualifier in March
Poland are due to play Russia in a World Cup qualifier in March

Poland will not play the World Cup play-off game against Russia in March because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Polish Football Association President Cezary Kulesza said the team “does not intend” to play the game.

Russia are due to host Poland in Moscow on 24 March, while Ukraine travel to Scotland on the same day as part of a series of play-off games to secure Europe’s final spots in the World Cup.

"Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia. This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the Sweden and Czech Republic to present a common position to FIFA," Kulesza said on Saturday.

Bayern Munich striker and captain of the Polish team, Robert Lewandowski has backed the decision to boycott the play-off.

"The right decision," tweeted Lewandowski, adding that "we can't pretend that nothing is happening".

Lewandowski, 33, who is his country's all-time highest goalscorer, added: "I can't imagine playing a match with the Russian national team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues. Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can't pretend that nothing is happening."

Sweden are also in the play-offs where they will meet the Czech Republic. The winner of that tie could meet Russia for a place at the World Cup finals, which get under way in Qatar in November.

On Thursday, FIFA said it would monitor the situation after Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic said in a joint statement that play-off matches should not be played in Russia.