Wales and Scotland should step aside and let Ukraine qualify for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. That’s the view of a columnist at the Daily Telegraph, who claims the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has presented both Wales and Scotland with a ‘moral conundrum’.
Wales secured their place in the play-off final with a win over Austria at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday night, and were due to meet either Scotland or Ukraine at the same venue on Tuesday. However, the drastic situation in Ukraine, which has seen an estimated 6.5 million people displaced due to the ongoing show of aggression from Vladimir Putin’s forces, has caused the other semi-final at Hampden Park to be postponed until June.
It means Wales will now have to wait until well after next week’s finals draw to find out if they have qualified for their first World Cup since 1958. However, columnist Jim White has suggested that both Wales and Scotland step aside, and hand their place over to Ukraine in a show of solidarity.
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“In order to get to Qatar in November, Wales may well have to defeat Ukraine. Scotland face the same moral conundrum,” he wrote. “To get to the point where they could meet up with Wales for the last berth in the tournament, they will first have to better Ukraine, whenever their delayed semi-final is able to take place.
“It is not a thought to savour. Rather it is one to bring pause. Both Wales and Scotland are used to being the underdogs, the neutral’s favourite, the side everyone else wants to win. Especially when they are playing England. Not this time. This time they are loaded with a different symbolism. This time they are the sides playing to destroy a rare moment of illumination for a nation currently shrouded in miserable, imposed darkness. Suddenly they are the sides looking to extinguish a rare moment of hope in a nation being destroyed before our very eyes.”
Wales fans paid tribute to the people of Ukraine with a yellow and blue display ahead of Thursday night’s clash, and there have been similar scenes across the Premier League, EFL and Europe. But White believes that allowing Oleksandr Petrakov’s side to compete at the upcoming tournament would be the strongest possible show of solidarity.
He continued: “Imagine if Ukraine made it to the tournament in November, what that could mean for the morale in the beleaguered nation. Imagine Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko lining up to sing the Ukrainian national anthem ahead of their first group stage game against Brazil.
“What a magnificent riposte it would be to the murderous dictator in the Kremlin, a man who knows full well what the World Cup offers in terms of international prestige and exposure. After all, he bribed and bullied his way to hosting the entire competition the last time it was staged. As David Moyes pointed out recently, when it comes to showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine, British football has been good at gestures. Brighton have played in Ukraine kit, Southampton have lit up St Mary’s in yellow and blue, Premier League captains have worn armbands in Ukrainian colours.
“But this would be more than virtue signalling. This would be a proper and meaningful statement of support. For Wales and Scotland to stand aside would be one of the most impressive actions in the history of sport. Sacrificing your own goals and ambitions to promote and highlight someone else would command genuine, lasting respect. A lot more respect indeed than qualifying and not making it beyond the group stage.”
White’s comments come after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed to suggest Ukraine be afforded a bye into the tournament.
Speaking at the Nato headquarters, Johnson was asked if he thought Ukraine should get a place in the tournament, and replied: “Sounds like a good idea to me but I’m out of area here, I’ve got to admit that’s not my strong subject. I don’t see why not, is my view.”
He added: “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.”