Belarusian teams have been ordered to play their home matches in UEFA competitions at neutral venues with immediate effect following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

European football's governing body also announced on Thursday that spectators will not be allowed to attend games in which teams from Belarus are nominally the hosts.

Belarus has been used as a staging post for a Russia invasion of Ukraine that was ordered by president Vladimir Putin last week.

A UEFA statement said: "The UEFA executive committee met today and decided that all Belarusian clubs and national teams competing in UEFA competitions will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues with immediate effect.

"Furthermore, no spectators shall attend matches in which the teams from Belarus feature as host.

"The UEFA executive committee will convene further extraordinary meetings, on a regular ongoing basis where required, to reassess the legal and factual situation as it evolves and adopt further decisions as necessary."

FIFA and UEFA on Monday banned Russian teams from club and international competitions until further notice.

Earlier on Thursday, athletes from Russia and Belarus were banned from the 2022 Winter Olympics following a U-turn by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Russia is set to appeal against that decision.

The IPC had announced on Wednesday that the two nations were set to compete in Beijing, albeit under the Paralympic flag and without being included in the medal table.

That was despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) calling for athletes from Russia and Belarus to be prevented from taking part in all international sporting competitions.

However, just a day before the Games are due to begin, the IPC reversed its decision amid fierce backlash and threats of boycotts.

Russia and Belarus have been suspended from all International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) competitions at both national and club levels.

The IIHF announced the sanctions on Monday following an extraordinary meeting of its Council in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine last Thursday, with neighbouring Belarus effectively used as a staging post for Russian military.

The suspension prohibits Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs from "participation in every age category and in all IIHF competitions or events until further notice".

In addition, Russia has been stripped of hosting rights for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.

A statement from the IIHF read in part: "These two actions have been initiated by the Council in order to enable the IIHF to ensure the safety of IIHF Championships and all participating players, officials, and fans.

"The IIHF Council has not left out the possibility of further actions impacting future events or other IIHF activities but hopes above all for a swift and peaceful resolution to the war."

"The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine," said IIHF President Luc Tardif.

"We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants and must therefore do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment for all teams taking part in the IIHF World Championship program.

"We were incredibly shocked to see the images that have come out of Ukraine. I have been in close contact with members of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and we hope for all Ukrainians that this conflict can be resolved in a peaceful way and without the need for further violence."

 

Swiss Ice Hockey, along with other members of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), has called for sanctions on Russia and Belarus due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

After weeks of rising political tensions, Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday, with the conflict having escalated further over the weekend.

Russia's actions have been widely condemned and sporting, as well as political and financial, punishments have been handed out as a consequence.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) called on all international sporting federations to relocate or cancel any events set to take place in Russia or Belarus.

St Petersburg was stripped of the right to host the 2021-22 Champions League final by UEFA, while Formula One removed the Russian Grand Prix from its calendar this year.

Numerous high-profile sportspeople have expressed their opposition to the conflict, with Russia's Andrey Rublev writing "no war please" on a camera lens at the Dubai Tennis Championship and compatriot Daniil Medvedev calling for peace.

Vladimir Putin's status as honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation (IJF) has also been suspended, and now The Swiss Ice Hockey Federation has demanded further action within their sport.

"The attack is in complete contradiction to the values of the Olympic movement, which is committed to peace, understanding and solidarity between countries and peoples," a statement from Swiss Ice Hockey read. 

"With its actions, Russia is breaking the Olympic truce, which was adopted as a resolution by the UN General Assembly on December 2, 2021 by 173 member countries.

"Swiss Ice Hockey strongly condemns Russia's actions. Swiss Ice Hockey's thoughts are with the Ukrainian ice hockey family and everyone in Ukraine in this difficult situation. 

"Together with other member associations, Swiss Ice Hockey has submitted an application to the IIHF, in which immediate and far-reaching consequences and sanctions against Russia and Belarus – which supports the Russian government in their actions – are required. 

"The application to the IIHF Council calls for, among other things, the immediate exclusion of the Russian and Belarusian ice hockey federations as members of the IIHF and the withdrawal of the U20 World Championship in December 2022 in Novosibirsk and the A World Championship in May 2023 in St. Petersburg.

"Swiss Ice Hockey has also decided that the senior men's national team will not travel to Russia and play a friendly against Russia as part of the World Cup preparations next spring – contrary to the original plan."

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) took silver in the men's ice hockey tournament at this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Gareth Bale is determined to mark his landmark 100th cap for Wales by helping to push his side closer towards a first World Cup appearance in 64 years.

Real Madrid forward Bale has been out of action since sustaining a hamstring injury in Wales' goalless draw with Estonia on September 8, missing his club's last 13 matches.

The 32-year-old's three appearances for the Dragons this season is as many as he has managed in all competitions for Madrid since returning from a loan stint with Tottenham.

Despite his latest spell on the sidelines, Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti gave his blessing for Bale to link up with Robert Page's side for their games with Belarus and Belgium.

Bale has declared himself ready for Saturday's clash with Belarus, which would make him just the second player after Chris Gunter (106) to reach a century of caps for Wales.

"I'm not in peak condition like I was before, but I've worked as hard as ever to get back in time," Bale said at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"I'm as fit as I can be but the match fitness is not there. All I can do is give my best. I'm not sure I'll be able to play the whole game, but I'm here to give 100 per cent.

"Reaching 100 caps will be an incredible achievement. It's nice for me and my family, but the most important thing is the game and not the occasion.

"Hopefully I can enjoy it after the game, which is [a] must-win for us. For the time being it's easy to wander back but all focus needs to be on the game."

 

Bale has played in two European Championships with Wales, reaching the semi-finals in 2016 and last 16 earlier this year, but has yet to have a taste of the World Cup.

The Dragons are already assured of a spot in March's play-offs, but they are now aiming to finish above the Czech Republic in second place in Group E to secure a home tie.

For Bale, a winner of 13 trophies at club level, including four Champions Leagues, reaching a first World Cup since 1958 with Wales is next on his wishlist.

"We've got to try to push and qualify for the World Cup now. It's an important game for us to win," he said.

"We've all [got to] give it our 100 per cent best, never have any regrets and always fight to the end. We have a chance to do it now and we have to try and capitalise on it."

Asked if he would swap one of his European Cup triumphs to qualify for the World Cup, Bale said: "It's difficult to say, but we'll fight until the death to achieve that.

"We'll fight as hard as we can in these last couple of games."

Bale's importance to Wales since making his first appearance against Trinidad and Tobago in May 2006 cannot be understated.

Wales have won 48 and drawn 14 of the previous 99 games with Bale in their side for a win rate of 48.5 per cent, which drops to 27.7 per cent in the 47 games he has not played in.

The Madrid man has scored 36 goals for the Dragons, 20 of those coming during Chris Coleman's tenure between 2012 and 2017.

He also scored once under Brian Flynn, two under John Toshack, three during the late Gary Speed's reign, three under current incumbent Page and seven with Ryan Giggs in charge.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Wales' run to the Euro semi-finals, 2016 was Bale's most prolific calendar year with seven strikes, followed by the five he managed in 2015 and 2018.

Bale has faced 44 different opponents across his 15-year international career, with Finland the side he has come up against most often (six times), while Andorra, Belarus and China (three goals against each) are his favourite opponents.

Speaking alongside Bale on Friday, interim head coach Page said: "Looking back at Euro 2016 when I was a supporter was tremendous and being part of his journey, he's just as enthusiastic today as he was then. 

"It's been a pleasure to work with him and be a part of his journey. Humble is the right word. He's a prankster among the group. He's jovial and wears the armband with pride. 

"He's absolutely a superstar and I do think a lot of youngsters look up to him and the way he takes care of himself. He's been an inspiration to a lot of children."

Belgium took another big stride towards assuring their automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup with a routine 1-0 win over Belarus.

The Red Devils – ranked number one in the world – made it three wins from three in this batch of qualifiers to all but ensure their place at Qatar.

With 16 points to their name, Belgium need just one win from their remaining two fixtures to seal top spot in Group E, with Dennis Praet's goal the difference on Wednesday.

Shorn of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium did not make the most of their dominance, yet Belarus never threatened a comeback.

Toby Alderweireld played in a cross De Bruyne would have been proud of from the right-hand channel in the 20th minute – the ball falling to Batshuayi, who dragged his attempt wide.

Batshuayi headed in the rebound from Dedryck Boyata's effort against the crossbar soon after, only for the offside flag to cut short his celebrations.

Belgium had their lead two minutes later, however – Praet sweeping home across Sergey Chernik.

Dodi Lukebakio stretched his legs early in the second half, though made a poor decision to shoot from the edge of the area rather than slide in Leandro Trossard.

Batshuayi's search for a goal continued to prove fruitless as he saw an effort kept out by Chernik, Belgium missing the cutting edge to make the scoreline as comfortable as their performance warranted.

Artem Bykov tried to make them pay with a hopeful long-range attempt, but it never came close to testing Koen Casteels as Belgium eased to victory – Eden Hazard seeing a late free-kick saved well by Chernik at the other end.

Gareth Bale ended his marathon Wales goal drought with a hat-trick to boost World Cup qualification hopes as the Real Madrid forward showed his class against Belarus.

The €100million man scored for the first time in his past 17 internationals to give Wales a fifth-minute lead from the penalty spot, the first of two spot-kicks he fired home in Kazan.

Captain Bale then hit a stoppage-time winner past Sergey Chernik to give Wales a 3-2 success from their trip to Russia, with the game moved to the neutral location as Wales could not enter Belarus due to sanctions imposed against that country's government.

The tussle did not go entirely to plan for Wales, who conceded twice in quick succession around the half-hour mark, with just 92 seconds between Vitali Lisakovich's equaliser and Pavel Sedko putting the nominal home team ahead. Those had been the first two shots on target for Belarus.

But Bale levelled up in the 69th minute and then produced fresh heroics for his country in the dying moments. He had seven goal attempts in total, and the three he put on target paid handsome dividends for Wales' all-time record goalscorer.

He described the victory as "massive" and said: "We know these kinds of games are probably the hardest because you are expected to win and other teams make it difficult.

"To get that kind of last-minute goal and three points will hopefully keep our momentum going and hopefully we can keep that into the next game."

Wales had missed their previous three penalties, including Bale's failure at Euro 2020 against Turkey, and he admitted that big-stage blunder was in his thinking when he won the early spot-kick chance.

"Of course, you have it in the back of my mind," Bale told Sky Sports. "Missed penalties are a thing in football, it happens and it's about how you bounce back. It was great to score two tonight, because they were important goals.

"[The winner] was kind of last-gasp. Everything was in the box and bouncing around, and I tried to hook it in, and as soon as I saw it go just past his fingers and roll in, I was ecstatic. I knew it was right at the last few seconds."

Only once before had Bale gone longer without scoring for his country – a run of 20 games from 2007 to 2010, in the infancy of his Wales career.

Kazan is over 400 miles east of Moscow, and Bale was unimpressed by Wales being told to play there by UEFA.

"Obviously everything hasn't really gone for us in terms of travelling to Russia," said Bale. "It's not exactly ideal for UEFA or FIFA to put us here, but it is what it is and we've had to use that as extra motivation. Thankfully, we got the three points and we can get out of here."

Leandro Trossard and Hans Vanaken scored twice as Belgium eased past Belarus 8-0 to move to the top of their World Cup 2022 qualifying group in style.

Belgium fell behind in their first two Group E games - a 3-1 win comeback win over Wales and 1-1 draw with Czech Republic - but were four goals ahead at half-time on Tuesday.

Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring for Belgium after 14 minutes at Den Dreef in Leuven in the absence of the rested Romelu Lukaku and Vanaken added a quickfire second for the home side.

Trossard and Jeremy Doku were also on the scoresheet before half-time and further strikes followed after the interval from Dennis Praet and Christian Benteke, before Trossard and Vanaken completed the rout - Belarus' heaviest-ever loss.

Batshuayi failed to beat Aleksandr Gutor from close range early on but he made amends by picking out the roof of the net from a tight angle from the next chance that fell his way.

Vanaken doubled Belgium's lead three minutes later with a thumping volley from six yards and Trossard sent a glorious third into the top-left corner from long range.

Martinez's men were home and dry before the interval as Doku beat Gutor with a well-taken strike after being played in by Praet.

Praet went from provider to goalscorer four minutes into the second half with a precise drive from outside the box to join Vanaken and Trossard in scoring his first senior international goal.

Belgium squandered some presentable opportunities before Benteke guided Toby Alderweireld's cross into the bottom-right corner with a crisp first-time finish for a sixth goal. 

Vanaken was somehow denied his second by a Gutor save on the line, but he would go on to round off the scoring late on after Trossard had doubled his own tally with a shot through the legs of the Belarus goalkeeper.

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