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Clash crucial to Scotland's bid to reach Russia: Martin

 

By Andy Newport

Russell Martin has urged Scotland to grasp the opportunity awaiting them in Lithuania on Friday night as they prepare to make their final surge towards Russia.

Gordon Strachan's side face a crucial World Cup qualifier in Vilnius, with their hopes of progress once again hanging by a thread.

But Norwich defender Martin reckons victory over Edgaras Jankauskas' side, followed by another win in Monday's Hampden clash with Malta, could fire them back into contention as the Group F race enters the final straight.

Slovakia, who currently sit second, four points in front of the Scots, take on third-placed Slovenia and leaders England this weekend, and Martin hopes results elsewhere will open the door for Scotland to make a late run to next year's finals.

Martin said: "We all feel there's an opportunity to be grasped here. We have got a game on Friday that if we get the right result sets us up nicely for the last three.

"I think we've got a chance to build up some momentum now with the games we have left, especially if you look at the other fixtures this weekend.

"Come the end of these two games, the table could look massively different to the way it is now, setting us up for two huge final games."

Scotland's chances of ending a 19-year absence for major tournaments nosedived as they took just four points from the first 12 available. But March's narrow win over Slovenia left them clinging on until their Glasgow showdown with England earlier this summer.

A famous win looked on the cards until Harry Kane struck in stoppage time to claim a 2-2 draw for Gareth Southgate's men, but, while the Tartan Army were left to lament the result, the performance against the Auld Enemy has raised hopes among supporters that a spectacular comeback might be possible.

"The England game recharged everyone on the outside, but we inside the squad never lost that inner belief," Martin added.

  • Lithuania v Scotland, World Cup Group F: LFF Stadium, Vilnius Friday, 7.45pm

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