Scotland national team manager Steve Clarke has expressed scepticism over the possibility of his side’s postponed World Cup qualifiers playoff match with Ukraine holding in June.
Scotland, Ukraine, Wales and Austria are to duke it out for one of UEFA’s remaining spots in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Scotland and Ukraine were to face each other before the winner takes on either of Wales or Austria.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed things and now, both Ukraine and Scotland are stuck in football limbo mainly because there is no way for war-torn Ukraine to properly organise themselves for any sort of footballing activity.
The match was postponed till June but Steve Clarke has come out to offer his candid thoughts on the matter, which stem from the state of Ukraine, a month into the invasion.
Clarke also believes their opponents should be given as much time as possible to prepare.
“If you’re asking me now, ‘Will the game go ahead in June?’, then it’s going to be difficult. If you’re honest about the situation now, then it’s difficult to see,” Clarke said ahead of Scotland’s friendly with Poland, who were given a pass to the next round of the playoffs following the ban on their opponents Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.
The Scotland boss noted that a match is more than the 90 minutes on the pitch, and that Ukraine currently do not have the facilities or the capacity to prepare well enough.
He hoped that the match can hold, as it would signify progress in the efforts to stop Russia’s attacks.
Clarke continued: “It’s not just the fixture, it’s the fact they need to get together, have a training camp and get all their players on the pitch with a proper period of time to prepare for such an important game.
“Andriy Shevchenko, who I know from my time at Chelsea, spoke quite well about the situation and said they would want to play on the pitch. But the way the situation is, I think they should get as much time as possible to try to make that game happen – Scotland against Ukraine at Hampden.
“It’s just a horrible, horrible situation and the quicker we know we’re going to play Ukraine at Hampden the better, because it will mean the war has stopped and we’re all trying to move forward again.
“We hope and pray that the situation improves enough for the fixture to go ahead at some time. But we have to be guided by FIFA, UEFA and, most importantly, by Ukraine themselves.”
Clarke’s suggestions of a further postponement for Ukraine, while humane, will be bad logistically for either team as the next international window after June, the August/September window, will be too short for the qualified team to plan their logistics in line with FIFA guidelines.
It remains to be seen how the world football governing body will tackle this issue.