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‘Life is more important than football’ – Scotland skipper Andy Robertson insists World Cup play-off must only be played when Ukraine are ready

Captain Andy Robertson during a Scotland training session at the Oriam, on March 28, ahead of the Austria friendly.
Captain Andy Robertson during a Scotland training session at the Oriam, on March 28, ahead of the Austria friendly.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson insists the World Cup play-off with Ukraine must be rescheduled on the war-torn nation’s terms.

Liverpool left-back Robertson believes as ‘life is more important than football’  the semi-final must only go ahead when Ukraine are ready.

The Hampden clash with Ukraine, initially scheduled for March 24, was postponed by FIFA due to Russia’s invasion.

Robertson is ready to wait until as late as October to face Ukraine – just a month before the World Cup finals begin in Qatar.

It was initially hoped the play-off could be rescheduled for the Nations League international break in June.

However, as war continues to rage in Ukraine, June seems increasingly unlikely.

Robertson hopes the semi does go ahead in June, because it means the war in Ukraine will be over.

Due to the play-off postponement, Scotland arranged two friendlies.

Robertson is set to return for Tuesday’s clash in Austria, having missed the 1-1 draw with Poland due to Covid.

He said: “Life is more important than football and what’s happening over there is tough to watch from afar.

“It was 100% the right decision to call it off in March.

“It was impossible to ask Ukraine to play the game.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going through.

“From a football point of view then it has to be on Ukraine’s terms.

“It’s about when they can play and when they are in a position to play the game.

“And whenever Ukraine can play the game then we have to play it, whether that’s September or October or whenever it has to be.

“It has to be on their terms and I think other games can make way for the most important ones.”

Robertson wants four-game limit

Scotland already have four Nations League games scheduled for June.

They are set to face Armenia home and away, Republic of Ireland (away) and Ukraine (home) in Nations League Group A.

Should the play-offs go ahead in June, the Scots could potentially face six games that month – should they overcome Ukraine to set up a final with Wales.

Robertson warned players’ welfare will be in danger if games are not cut from that schedule.

Captain Andy Robertson (r) and former Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean train ahead of the trip to Vienna.

He said: “From a football point of view I don’t think it’s fair to ask players to play six games in June when our summer break is already being cut short because of the World Cup during the season.

“A lot has been said about player welfare over the last couple of years and I hope that’s at the front of it.

“All the players are going to have to go through it.

“To ask players to have only two weeks off in a whole year is unacceptable for me.

“I hope the decision about the games in the summer is taken wisely.”

June already congested for Scots

The last of Scotland’s four scheduled Nations League games this summer is away to Armenia on June 14.

Robertson insists that date must be the absolute cut-off for international fixtures in the summer, including the play-offs.

The 28-year-old said: “I remember being involved with Scotland where there was one game arranged in June and it was like: ‘do we play football in June?’

“Everyone was a bit uncertain. Now we have four.

“Major tournaments are in June and July and we accept that.

“The Nations League is obviously important.

Skipper Andy Robertson will return to action for the trip to Austria.

“Four games is a lot after an intense season for everyone.

“But the games have to be played and I think four has to be the maximum.

“We are already going to June 14.

“I think all the boys are back at the latest by the start of July.

“The Scottish(-based) and (English) Championship boys are back well before then.

“You are asking boys to have eight or nine days’ holiday, which I don’t think is fair.

“That’s why I hope it doesn’t go further than June 14 and that football and player welfare is at the forefront of the decision to be made around June.

“Don’t get me wrong, I hope the Ukraine game is in June because it will mean the world and Ukraine are in a better place.

“But I think maybe other games could be moved to other international breaks to fit that in.”

Skipper back after Covid absence

Robertson will return to action for the friendly against Austria in Vienna, having been sidelined with Covid.

Although he missed the Poland friendly, the skipper watched the action from the team’s hotel near Edinburgh.

Andy Robertson (l) and Che Adams during a Scotland training session at the Oriam, ahead of the trip to Austria.

He said: “I feel a lot better now thankfully.

“The first couple of days I was in my bed and then I felt better and just had to give a negative test.

‘That took a bit longer than expected, but all good now.

“The family never got it, which was the main thing.

“It finally got me after two years or so.”

Robertson watched game in hotel

Scotland were denied a seventh straight win for the first time in 95 years when Poland scored a controversial injury time penalty at Hampden.

Robertson said: “I watched it (Poland game),  I was already in the team hotel.

“I was meeting up with the boys for Friday training, so I headed through and watched it in the hotel.

“Then I integrated back in the squad with some light training.

“It was full-on from Saturday onwards.”

Kieran Tierney celebrates netting against Poland.

Determined to face Austria in Vienna

Robertson is bidding for an historic quadruple with Liverpool, having already won the Carabao Cup.

They are just one point behind Premiership leaders Manchester City.

Liverpool also face Benfica in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and go against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final.

Despite missing the Poland game with Covid and the hectic club schedule, the Scotland skipper was determined to face Austria.

Scotland’s Kieran Tierney celebrates making it 1-0 with teammates during the friendly with Poland

Robertson said: “I want to play games.

“I enjoy playing football, whether it’s for club or for country.

“I love captaining this team and playing for this team.

“When I got the positive test I thought it would be tight, but that I could maybe make it for Thursday (against Poland).

“But I was still positive too close to the game.

“Luckily I started producing negative tests, which meant I could meet up later in the week.”

 

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