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A ‘DIFFICULT DECISION’ TO SNUB REGAN, IS ANYONE EXCITED ABOUT THE NATIONS LEAGUE?

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SCOTLAND have been Israel and Albania in a three team group in the inaugural Nations League.

The games will be played home and away in a 10-week period between September and November this year. This strange new tournament replaces international friendlies with the aim to provide more competitive matches and will include promotion and relegation.

It also offers a second route to qualification for the European Championship, with four places available via a play-off system.

Paul McStay scored the winner the last time Scotland faced Israel. The Scots actually have a 100% record against Israel but have never faced Albania. In club football Celtic played against an Albanian side in the European Cup in 1979-80 season but meeting between Scottish and Albania clubs have been few and far between.

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The Nations League divides 55 countries into four tiers, with Scotland in the only three-team group in the third section.

One team from each tier will reach the Euros once the group qualification process for the European Championship is completed.

Winning the Nations League group would therefore guarantee a play-off involving three other third tier teams if Scotland were to miss out on a top two place from their Euro qualifying group – so it is going to be pretty difficult even for Scotland to fail to qualify.

Scotland have not reached a major finals since the World Cup in France in 1998.

The Euro qualifying rounds begins in March 2019, with the 10 groups to be drawn on 2 December.

Hampden Park will host matches at Euro 2020, with the tournament spread across 12 different cities to mark Uefa’s 60th anniversary.

Albania and Israel met in the qualifying group for this year’s World Cup, finishing behind Spain and Italy.

Albania made their major tournament debut at Euro 2016.

Israel have never reached a European Championship, but with Scotland in their way they might fancy their chances!

Meanwhile at the Nations League Draw, the Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, who impressively used the SFA to secure a lucrative new contract to remain in his current job, spoke about it being a ‘difficult decision’ to say thanks but no thanks to Stewart Regan at the SFA.

Regan had put all his eggs in one basket and O’Neill, realising the strategic advantage this game him, was able to listen to the offers from Glasgow and Belfast before taking the most favourable for him personally.

Fair play to him but for Regan, he is left with egg on his face.

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Why didn’t he have a shortlist with O’Neill on it – at the top if he was the favoured candidate?

Michael O’Neill has admitted that turning down Scotland to remain with Northern Ireland was “a difficult decision”.

The 48-year-old, who guided Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 before missing out on the World Cup after a play-off defeat to Switzerland last year, snubbed an offer to replace Gordon Strachan on Monday, having held talks with the SFA.

Speaking at the draw for the UEFA Nations League, where Northern Ireland were paired with Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina, the 48 year old Northern Ireland boss explained why he said no to the SFA and instead decided to stay on in his current job.

“It was a difficult decision for me to make. I had to know after six years that it was the right thing for me going forward.

“I felt I needed to speak to Scotland to be right in my head and to be fair to both countries,” O’Neill stated.

“If I’m staying with Northern Ireland I have to be 100 per cent focused on the job and equally, if I was going to take the Scotland job, I had to be 100 per cent sure that it was the right option for me as well.

“I needed to speak to the SFA to do that and, having done that, I feel my work at Northern Ireland is still not complete.

“We have to challenge again or do our best to challenge again, keep the squad together and try to grow it as well.”

Scotland’s hunt for a new manager continues…

Regan could do worse than call this guy…

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