The first edition of the Women’s Nations League is also the qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games in Paris. But with England and Scotland in one group – alongside the Red Flames – it creates a strange situation and conflicting interests, which will also come into play tonight against Belgium.
While England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been presented as four separate footballing nations since time immemorial, only Great Britain is allowed to participate as a nation in the Olympic Games.
The Women’s Nations League serves as a qualifying tournament for Paris 2024. Finalists can go to the Olympics with host nation France.
To avoid Team GB having 4 chances to qualify thanks to their states, one team has been designated that can qualify. It makes sense for England to become the European champion, the strongest and highest-ranked country in the FIFA rankings.
If England reach the Nations League final, Great Britain could go to the Olympics. In addition to players from England, who are likely to make up the majority of selection, players from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are also eligible.
This creates conflicting interests in Group 1 – the Red Flames’ group – because England and Scotland are in the same group. After all, if the Scottish women are to realize their Olympic dream, they have every advantage in England reaching the final.
Last week, England won 2-1 over Scotland in Sunderland, but what if Olympic qualification is still on the line when Scotland host England in their final group match in December? After all, only the top group qualifies for the Nations League finals.
Therefore, winning the group is a must for England, who suddenly have an extra opponent after the Belgian stunt against the Netherlands with the Red Flames. And so it will The Scottish Women are keen to steal points from Belgium tonight.
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Who are the eligible players?
On paper, European champions and vice-world champions England have the strongest squad of the four British nations. However, some non-English players can also dream of Paris.
Scottish midfield star Caroline Weir was also in attendance at the Tokyo Olympics and also looks like a certainty for 2024 if Great Britain can qualify. Her compatriot Kim Little was also present at previous games, as was Sophie Engle from Wales.
Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert and Bayern’s Samantha Kerr are also competing for a place in the British midfield.
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Nationalist sentiment also plays a role
Scottish players who want to go to Paris therefore have a huge interest in helping England win the group.
However, many Scots will be happy that England – and by extension Great Britain – is unable to qualify for the Olympics. There is a fear that in the future this could lead to a request/requirement from FIFA to play as Great Britain in all football tournaments from now on.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have played football as independent nations since time immemorial, a distinction derived from Great Britain’s pioneering role in the sport, which originated across the Channel.
When the FIFA regulations were drawn up, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were given exceptional permission to compete in international football as a separate nation.
If they lose their national football team, I have no doubt that Scotland will demand independence.
Many fans from the “smaller” footballing nations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are concerned that Great Britain’s potential success as a footballing nation at the Olympics could undermine their own standing in FIFA.
British sports economist Stefan Szymanski went further in 2016. In an interview with Business Insider, he suggested that FIFA’s requirement for Britain to become permanently British could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.
He said at the time: “Don’t forget there was already a very close referendum on independence in Scotland in 2014. If they lose their national football team, I have no doubt that Scotland will demand independence.”
What’s on the Scottish players’ minds tonight against our Reds: the Olympics? Or Scottish independence?
Red flames in the European Nations League
|The results are red flames|
|Position in group 1|
The group winner qualifies for the Nations League finals. Number 3 plays in the playoffs to retain League A. Number 4 is relegated to League B.
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