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UEFA task force to help place Kosovo in World Cup groups

Facing problems placing Kosovo in a World Cup qualifying group, UEFA has asked a task force to look into the situation and report back by May 31.

UEFA interim general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said on Wednesday one issue is organising potential matches against countries who do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

FIFA accepted Kosovo and Gibraltar as members last week and asked UEFA to find spaces in 2018 World Cup qualifying, which starts in September.

Vacant slots exist in the two five-team European groups where Belgium and Croatia are the top seeds.

One group includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus and Greece, who do not recognise Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

Ukraine, in the other group, also does not recognise Kosovo's statehood.

"They [countries] should respect all FIFA decisions. That's a world championship,'' Kosovo Football Federation president Fadik Vokrri said this week on returning from the FIFA meeting in Mexico.

In a further complication, current FIFA advice to UEFA indicates that Kosovo-eligible players with other national teams will be barred from switching allegiance.

"That was the opinion expressed by FIFA," UEFA legal director Alasdair Bell said at a news conference. "It is going to have to be determined on a case-by-case basis by FIFA."

FIFA's player status committee handles eligibility requests by players qualified for more than one national team.

Switzerland and Albania each have several players with family roots in Kosovo, and the two teams meet in the European Championship in France next month.

A May 31 deadline was also set for Kosovo club teams to be accepted into the Champions League and Europa League next season if they pass UEFA licensing rules.

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