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Former Scottish FM calls for extra team at World Cup to let Ukraine qualify and Wales v Scotland go ahead

27 Mar 2022 3 minute read
Henry McLeish picture by the Scottish Government (OGL v1.0).

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.”

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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 years ago

The idea that Ukraine would be gifted a place in the forthcoming World Cup is patronising not only to Ukrainians but to all the nations suffering conflict around the world by aggressors. Why no similar calls for Afghanistan or Palestine to have an automatic place like Ukraine? They are suffering too. Aren’t both equally deserving? The cynic in me thinks Russia is a factor, as is the colour of their skin & religion.

John Brooks
John Brooks
2 years ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Absolutely, include Yemen and a team of Myanmar refugees. Why not get rid of every team bar those from countries that are victims of war. Think you are spot on about religion and skin colour. Hypocrisy abounds I am afraid.

2 years ago
Reply to  John Brooks

The difference between the countries you are mentioning and Ukraine is that Ukraine is in the process of qualifying for the world cup. While Ukraine became second in their group, Yemen, Palestine etcetera have simply failed to qualify. Ukraine cannot play its matches as planned at the moment. Many of their players do not play in their competitions and probably many are instead engaged in defending their country in one way or another.

stuart stanton
stuart stanton
2 years ago

We hope Wales qualify but I, for one would also like the FA of Wales, players and management to refuse to take part in protest at the indefensible human rights record of the ‘hosts’ and the craven attitude of FIFA in sucking up to this.

2 years ago

Easy peasy….. England steps aside.

2 years ago

If the war is not ended by June I would propose Wales, Scotland and Ukraine put together a team with a selection of eight players per country to play in Qatar.

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