Sweden, pictured in action against Greece in a World Cup qualifier, will face the Czech Republic in the playoff semi-final on March 24 (AFP)
World football's governing body said Tuesday that Poland, who Russia were due to face in the playoff semi-final this month, would be given a bye into one of the European playoff finals.
Poland will face the winners of the match between Sweden and the Czech Republic for a place in the finals in Qatar.
The playoff final will take place on March 29, five days after the Swedes and Czechs play each other, potentially giving an advantage to the Poles who will be well rested.
The head of the Swedish football federation, Hakan Sjostrand, said he would have preferred it if FIFA had found a new opponent for Poland in place of Russia.
"The most reasonable and fair thing, on a sporting level, would have been that Poland have a new opponent in the semi-final," Sjostrand said.
"We understand that it is a difficult situation to resolve for FIFA but nevertheless the principle of playing in the same conditions, in other words playing two competitive matches to reach the final phase of the World Cup, should apply."
Sweden coach Janne Andersson said that FIFA had taken the right decision to kick Russia out of the playoffs.
But he described the decision to give Poland free passage to the final as "completely mad from a sporting point of view".
"Having said that, we will focus entirely on the preparation for the match against the Czech Republic. We want to go to the World Cup and we will do everything to achieve that."
FIFA also confirmed that Ukraine's playoff match against Scotland would be postponed until June following a request from the Ukrainian federation.
Russia, which hosted the 2018 World Cup, on Tuesday lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against its suspension from all international competitions "until further notice" by FIFA and UEFA.
The World Cup finals take place from November 21 to December 18.
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