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Russia can still qualify for the 2026 World Cup – RFU boss

Alexander Dyukov has revealed Russia’s football exile might end before the next World Cup

Iury Gazinsky of Russia celebrates with Fedor Smolov, Ilya Kutepov and Aleksandr Golovin after scoring the opening goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup © Getty Images / Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Alexander Dyukov, the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), confirmed on Thursday that it was still possible for Russia’s national team to take part in qualification matches for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Russian national and club sides remain on the periphery of the sport due to sanctions imposed by FIFA and UEFA in the wake of the onset of Moscow’s conflict with Ukraine in February 2022.

“There is a possibility of moving to the Asian Confederation,” Dyukov told Match TV on Thursday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. “We keep it in mind, based on the fact that after some time it is important for us to start playing official matches.”

Reports emerged late last year that the RFU was considering disavowing its membership to UEFA in favor of accepting an invitation from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to compete within its infrastructure where, in theory, Russia would be eligible to compete in World Cup qualification matches.

However, Dyukov added that while the “theoretical possibility” to do so exists, “we are currently negotiating with UEFA. We are not negotiating a transition to the Asian Confederation.”

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In March, Dyukov said that seeking qualification to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico is the RFU’s “main task” – but added that there had been no progress in talks with UEFA over a return to European football.

Dyukov explained on Thursday that a firm decision with regard to the RFU’s future is expected to be taken by the end of the year, “but without official consent from UEFA we will not be able to change the confederation.”

“In order to take part in the qualifying matches for the World Cup, we need confirmation and consent from FIFA, which we currently do not have,” Dyukov explained, answering “not yet” when asked if the chances of Russia taking part in the World Cup in three years time is lost.

Speaking on Thursday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino responded “we’ll see” when asked about the chances of Russia competing in the US, Canada, and Mexico in 2026, according to RIA Novosti.

Meanwhile, a little over a week after the Russian national team played out a 1-1 with Qatar in Al Wakrah, Dyukov also confirmed Russia is expected to host Cameroon in a friendly match on October 12. The fixture will probably take place in Moscow’s 26,000-capacity VTB Arena, he added.

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