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Ukraine crisis: Poland to boycott World Cup play-off against Russia

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Poland will boycott their World Cup play-off against Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, with captain Robert Lewandowski saying “we can’t pretend that nothing is happening”.

Polish football association president Cezary Kulesza has 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.

“The right decision,” tweetedexternal-link Lewandowski.

Bayern Munich striker 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.

“No more words, time to act.” tweeted Kulesza on Saturday.

“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.”

Other members of the Poland squad, including Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich and Southampton defender Jan Bednarek, posted messages on social media which outlined their position.

“It is not an easy decision but there are more important things than football,” read the collective statement.

The Poland players also highlighted the case of team-mate Tomasz Kedziora, who plays for Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv and is still in the Ukrainian capital.

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