World soccer’s governing body said on Tuesday that Poland, which Russia would face in the playoff semi-final this month, would have direct access to 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 final in Qatar.
The playoff final will take place on March 29, five days after the Swedes and Czechs meet, which could give the well-rested Poles an advantage.
Swedish soccer federation chief Hakan Sjostrand said he would have preferred FIFA to have found a new opponent for Poland rather than Russia.
“The most reasonable and fair thing, on a sporting level, would have been for Poland to have a new opponent in the semi-finals,” Sjostrand said.
“We understand that it is a difficult situation for FIFA to resolve, but nevertheless, the principle of playing under equal conditions must be applied, that is, playing two official matches to reach the final phase of the World Cup.”
Sweden coach Janne Andersson said FIFA had made the right decision by knocking Russia out of the playoffs.
But he called the decision to give Poland free passage to the final “completely crazy from a sporting point of view”.
“Having said that, we will focus entirely on the preparation for the game against the Czech Republic. We want to go to the World Cup and we will do everything to achieve it.”
FIFA also confirmed that Ukraine’s playoff match against Scotland will be postponed following a request from the Ukrainian federation. That match is now likely to take place in June.
Russia filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday against the suspension of all international competitions “until further notice” by FIFA and UEFA.
The World Cup takes place from November 21 to December 18.