The race to secure spots at a major finals in Qatar is well and truly on, but certain fixtures are presenting UEFA with a challenge

The chairman of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) has admitted that a 2022 World Cup play-off clash with Russia is “almost unthinkable” at this stage, following the decision of Vladimir Putin to send troops into Ukraine.

Political tension in Eastern Europe continues to intensify, with a military invasion now underway.

Those actions may impact on sporting matters, with Russia due to take part in important fixtures that have places at a major finals in Qatar up for grabs.

With the winner of a meeting between Russia and Poland on March 24 due to face the victors of a tie involving Sweden and the Czech Republic, two high-profile fixtures could take place on Russian soil.

Karl-Erik Nilsson, chairman of the Swedish FA, has, however, admitted that his country would find it difficult to make such a trip.

He has told Reuters: “Its a possible scenario. Spontaneously around the feelings we have as we wake up this morning are that it is almost unthinkable that we in a few weeks would play a football match in Russia.

“As it looks here and now, today, there is absolutely no desire to play a football match in Russia.”

He added: “Our thoughts go to our friends in Ukraine over the situation they woke up to today, its awful. Football should be seen as something of less importance in the middle of this inferno.”

There have been suggestions that Russia should be taken out of the reckoning for World Cup qualification, but Nilsson says it is too early to be making decisions of such magnitude.

The 64-year-old former referee said: “I believe that [in these situations] much is called for very quickly – we will need to live and socialise even in the future, and I think we shouldnt be too quick with solutions.

“Instead, we should take our time and see what actions are needed. For the moment we are looking forward to arms being laid down and that peace and freedom come into existence.”

He added when quizzed on whether the desires of those in Ukraine could shape football’s response to an escalating conflict: “Its important that the requests come from Ukraine.

“At the moment they have a lot more to think about than football, but a future will arrive one day and we must show solidarity with our football friends around Europe.”

Ukraine are also due to be in play-off action on March 24, when they face Scotland for the right to take on Wales or Austria in the Path A final.

They also have UEFA Nations League outings to come in the summer, with the Republic of Ireland due to visit Lviv on June 14.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has said in a statement relating to that fixture: “The FAI will continue to communicate on an ongoing basis with our Government, our colleagues at UEFA and the Ukraine Association of Football with regards to the latest developments and the implications for the Ukraine v Republic of Ireland fixture in the UEFA Nations League, currently fixed for Lviv on Tuesday, June 14th.

“The FAI will also welcome Ukraine to Dublin on June 4th for the opening fixture in the UEFA Nations League campaign. The FAI awaits the outcome of the UEFA ExCo meeting on Friday, February 25th which has been called to discuss the current situation in the Ukraine.”

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