Kosovo and Gibraltar fast-tracked to World Cup qualifying debuts

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June 10 – Kosovo and Gibraltar, both accepted into the FIFA fold last month, have as expected been fast-tracked into the 2018 World Cup qualifying programme that kicks off in September.

UEFA has placed Kosovo in World Cup qualifying Group I after ruling that its newest member could not play against Bosnia-Herzegovina for security reasons.

Serbia does not recognise the statehood of Kosovo, its former province which declared independence in 2008.

Kosovo will come up against Croatia, Ukraine, Iceland, Turkey and Finland while Gibraltar will face Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Greece, Cyprus and Estonia.

Like Kosovo, Gibraltar faced a long battle before being reluctantly accepted by UEFA in 2013 and then FIFA after taking their case for admission to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Kosovan clubs will have to wait at least a year to make their debut in European competitions after failing to comply with UEFA licensing and spending regulations in time to play next season.

Kosovo had hoped champions FK Feronikeli and cup winners FC Prishtina would enter the first qualifying rounds of the Champions League and the Europa League respectively.

FIFA have not yet decided whether Kosovar players who have already played for another national team will be allowed to switch nationalities.

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