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Sir Kenny Dalglish: When it comes to Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA must do the right thing for everyone

© SNS Group Scotland’s Scott Brown tackles Andriy Shevchenko when Ukraine last visited Hampden in 2007
Scotland’s Scott Brown tackles Andriy Shevchenko when Ukraine last visited Hampden in 2007

What is going on in Ukraine right now it is making things extremely challenging for FIFA and UEFA.

Now, before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear that football is not important compared to the loss of human life in a war.

But, purely in a football context, it has created a complex situation, which Scotland finds itself right at the heart of.

We were due to play Ukraine on Thursday night at Hampden Park in a World Cup Play-off semi-final.

If victorious, we would have played the winner of Wales and Austria for the right to be at Qatar at the end of the year.

For obvious reasons, our game has been shelved, and we will play a friendly against Poland instead.

For every ticket sold, £10 will be donated by the SFA to UNICEF UK’s Emergency Appeal Fund For Ukraine, and that’s a fantastic gesture.

Right now, the Tartan Army have snapped up more than 25,000 tickets, and I’m sure there will be more than 40,000 inside Hampden come kick-off.

That’s a given. But what is far from certain is when our game against Ukraine will take place.

The most-recent suggestion is that we will play the play-off in June.

We already have four Nations League fixtures that month, crammed in over 11 days against Armenia (home and away), Ukraine and Republic of Ireland.

I get there is no easy solution to this, but asking Steve Clarke’s men to play potentially another two games, and six in total in June, is ludicrous.

The best way would be to scrap two of the Nations League games – the tie with Ukraine an obvious candidate – and slot the World Cup play-off games in there.

If the authorities do not do that, then they are making Scotland suffer and that would be totally unfair.

I’m sure Steve would prefer to find two dates later in the year to play extra Nations League games, whether that be in September or October.

Let’s be honest, the chance to be at the World Cup Finals is much more significant than the Nations League.

We will just need to wait and see what happens in the next week or two. However, a decision has to be made as soon as possible.

Of course, we do need to keep Ukraine in our thoughts, and it’s great that everyone is willing to help where possible.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke © SNS Group
Scotland boss Steve Clarke

Some members of the Tartan Army have floated an idea that FIFA should give Ukraine an automatic place at the World Cup Finals, and make it a 33-team tournament.

That would mean there would be seven groups of four countries and one group of five.

It’s a great idea and a brilliant gesture. So it would be interesting to see if FIFA entertains it.

With everything that is going on in their country, it would be so uplifting to see Ukraine there.

I also want to see Scotland there. Steve announced his squad for the Poland game at the start of last week, and we didn’t see too many surprises.

That’s a sign we have a settled group, and it’s going to take a player of exceptional ability to force his way in.

It’s also not just about what you can with the ball at your feet, it’s about your character and mentality.

The squad is settled and clearly enjoy being with each other. The team spirit is excellent and that is vitally important.

So, there is no need for any drastic changes.

From our goalkeepers, to defenders, into midfield and at the top end of the pitch, we have some brilliant players.

Andy Robertson leads the squad well, and he has some experienced campaigners in there with him such as John McGinn, Kieran Tierney and Callum McGregor.

The players will also be hoping for some clarity as quickly as possible as to what the next three months holds for them.

Whatever the outcome, they will be ready and raring to go. That’s what we can take for granted.