Former Scottish FM calls for extra team at World Cup to let Ukraine qualify and Wales v Scotland go ahead
A former Scottish First Minister has called for an extra team to be added to the World Cup Finals so that Ukraine can take part and Wales and Scotland can get on with playing a final qualifying match.
At the moment qualifying for all three nations is in limbo after Russia invaded Ukraine last month. Wales beat Austria on Friday and were due to find out whether they had qualified by playing the winner of Scotland v Ukraine on Tuesday.
The Scotland v Ukraine fixture has now been postponed to the summer and may not be played until the autumn, barely a month before the start of the World Cup in Qatar.
Henry McLeish, a former footballer, said that an extra nation – Ukraine – should be added to the World Cup to allow the matches to go ahead, backing a call by the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association.
“Fifa needs to make a unique show of solidarity with Ukraine and guarantee the Ukrainian flag is flying high at the World Cup finals,” he told the Daily Record.
“There is no practical way the play-off between Scotland and Ukraine is ever going to happen in the summer. There are players who are on the front line with their families under attack by invading Russian forces.
“It is time for Fifa to step up and say to Ukraine the pressure is off – you will be at the World Cup and we will be adding an extra team to the draw to make sure nobody else has to be ejected.”
‘Who is going to care’
Andy Smith, chairman of the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association, said: “We need to give Ukraine a golden ticket to the finals and add one team to the finals to that nobody else loses out as a result.
“I believe the draw on Friday should be postponed to allow for this to happen.
“Yes, it will mean there are 33 teams rather than 32 in the finals, which will mean one of the groups will need to have an extra team.
“There may be a slight disadvantage for those drawn in that group but, at the end of the day, who is going to care if it means we have shown a historic act of solidarity with Ukraine.
“If Scotland needs to play in a five-team group then I would be fine with that because we will have sent a message to Putin that we are standing with Ukraine.”
On Friday Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised in Scotland after suggesting that Ukraine should be given an automatic World Cup place – knocking out Wales and the Scottish in the process.
Seemingly unaware that Ukraine was vying for a last remaining European spot against Wales and Scotland, the Prime Minister claimed the country should be allowed to bypass the qualifiers.
Asked at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Boris Johnson said that it “sounds like a good idea to me” although he admitted it wasn’t his “strong subject”.
“I don’t see why not, is my view,” he said.
“Let me put it this way, given what Ukraine has been going through, given the privations that Ukrainian footballers have had to endure, I’m sure that every possible sympathy and allowances should be made for them.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.