Boris Johnson suggests Ukraine should get World Cup bye despite Scotland play-off


Boris Johnson has said Ukraine should be given a bye to the 2022 FIFA World Cup – a move that would disadvantage Scotland and potentially Wales.

Ukraine are due to face Scotland in a play-off semi-final that was originally scheduled for this week before being postponed due to Russia’s invasion of the country.

The winner of that clash will play the victor of Thursday evening’s fixture between Wales and Austria for a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Yet speaking at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, the Prime Minister was asked if he thought Ukraine should be allowed to bypass the play-offs and get a bye straight to the tournament proper.

While admitting football was not his “area of expertise”, Mr Johnson said the suggestion “sounds like a good idea to me” before adding: “But I’m out of area here. I’ve got to admit that’s not my strong subject….I don’t see why not.”

Scotland haven’t qualified for a men’s football World Cup since 1998, while Wales’ wait to return to the global showpiece is even longer – having reached the tournament just once in their history, back in 1958.

It was the second time in 24 hours that the Prime Minister had given his views on an international football tournament, after Downing Street were forced to clarify his comments that appeared to back the idea of Ukraine hosting Euro 2028, despite UK and Ireland bidding for the tournament.

Mr Johnson had said it was “beyond satire” that Russia should have declared an interest in hosting either Euro 2028 or Euro 2032. He added that “the best thing possible” would be for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and for Ukraine to be handed the tournament.

Downing Street then quickly clarified his position, saying he had been responding to a question about Moscow’s “brazen and sorely misjudged” attempt to obtain a platform on the international stage by hosting the tournament.

“Clearly we remain entirely committed to the UK and Ireland bid for Euro 2028 which retains the Government’s full backing,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

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