Old, new and current foes for Scotland - why the Tartan Army will be happy with Nations League draw

Scotland will become sick of the sight of Ukraine having been drawn with their World Cup play-off opponents in next year’s Nations League campaign.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny had a spell in charge at Dunfermline Athletic between 2006 and 2007
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny had a spell in charge at Dunfermline Athletic between 2006 and 2007

Steve Clarke’s side will be hoping to see off the Ukrainians at Hampden in March in a World Cup play-off semi-final. Whatever the outcome in that crucial clash the teams will meet on two further occasions later in the year following last night’s draw in Nyon.

Republic of Ireland are also in Group B1 along with Armenia, who will play the Scotland men’s team for the first time.

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Four games will be played in June 2022 and two in September. If Scotland win the group, it is likely they will be seeded second for Euro 2024 qualifying, while they will also be promoted to Group A, where they could meet the likes of England and current European champions Italy.

The draw lacked the razzamatazz of other such occasions but it is of potentially huge significance for mid-ranking countries such as Scotland.

Tartan Army fans have learned that the relatively new Nation League concept is not to be scoffed at. Scotland would not have been at Euro 2020 otherwise. It could yet provide a backdoor route to Euro 2024 in Germany.

It is hoped next year will end with Scotland making a second successive major finals appearance at the World Cup in Qatar in December. This hinges on beating Ukraine on 24 March at Hampden then overcoming the winner of Wales and Austria in the play-off final four days later.

Ukraine are in danger of becoming the new Israel, with whom Scotland have cultivated a strong rivalry in recent times.

The Scots have been spared any further meetings with Israel for the time being. But they will be well acquainted with Oleksandr Petrakov’s side before long. Ukraine, then under Andriy Shevchenko, even played their last 16 Euro 2020 clash with Sweden at Hampden.

They had only visited once previously and suffered a 3-1 defeat to Scotland in 2007. Ukraine beat Walter Smith’s side 2-0 in Kiev but both teams ended up missing out on Euro 2008 after finishing third and fourth in the group.

Scotland and Ukraine managed to clinch second spot in their World Cup qualifying groups and were paired together in the play-off draw in November.

Scotland will have home advantage in that meeting – they play home and away in the Nations League – but their opponents are currently ranked 13 places above them at 25. “We will know them well by the end of the Nations League, we will have played them three times,” said Clarke. “Hopefully we will find a way to beat them three times.”

Scotland have not faced Republic of Ireland, now managed by former Dunfermline boss Stephen Kenny, since a Euro 2016 qualifier in Dublin in June 2015. They drew 1-1 after earlier beating the visitors 1-0 at Celtic Park after a memorable Shaun Maloney winner.

The presence of Armenia in the group will be of particular interest to the Tartan Army. It’s not often they get the chance to visit a new country on their adventures – providing travel is permitted when the trip to the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican stadium in the ancient capital of Yerevan comes around. Uefa are due to announce the fixtures schedule today.

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