Rangers youngsters are set to miss out on the chance to represent their country at the Under-19 European Championship and Under-20 World Cup after UEFA pulled the plug due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
European football’s governing body have scrapped the entire competition, due to be held in Northern Ireland, and awarded the five spots in the next year’s World Cup to England, France, Italy, Holland and Portugal.
Scotland were due to face France, Russia and Georgia in the Elite Round of qualifying next month for a place at the finals but will now be left kicking their heels for the foreseeable future.
“The UEFA Executive Committee has decided to cancel the remainder of the 2019/20 UEFA Under-19 European Championship – the final tournament of which was due to be hosted in Northern Ireland – due to the current unresolved epidemiological situation in Europe and resulting travelling difficulties,” UEFA confirmed on their website.
“Since the 2019/20 edition of the UEFA Under-19 European Championship was a qualifier to the FIFA U-20 World Cup – scheduled to take place in Indonesia from 20 May to 12 June – it was decided that the five slots reserved for European teams in the competition be allocated to the teams occupying the top five positions in the UEFA qualifying round coefficient ranking for the 2019/20 season.
“Consequently, the teams of England, France, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal (in alphabetical order) will be the European representatives nominated to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.”
There were a number of young Rangers players in Billy Stark’s most recent squad and they would almost certainly have been involved for the Elite Round games as Scotland looked to secure their place at the finals.
After coming through the first phase of qualifying unbeaten, Stark’s side will have been confident of pushing France for qualification as the young Scottish national sides build impressive reputations.
While it will be a blow for the players to miss out on the chance of reaching the finals – and next year’s World Cup – the chaos caused by the recent round of senior international games suggests that it is the right move by UEFA in current circumstances.