World Cup 2018: Scotland best as underdogs, says Russell Martin

Russell Martin during Scotland training
Russell Martin is one of Scotland's senior players
World Cup qualifying Group F: Malta v Scotland
Date: Sunday, 4 September Venue: Ta'Qali National Stadium, Attard Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website.

Scotland defender Russell Martin believes the national team are at their best when fighting against the odds.

England are expected to top World Cup qualifying Group F, but Martin says the Scots prefer being underdogs.

"People don't expect us to be there, but we're better like that, when people don't expect it," Martin said.

"It's a group where people will take points off each other, so I don't think there will be one runaway leader."

Scotland kick off their campaign away to Malta on Sunday, before facing Lithuania at home and Slovakia away next month, then England at Wembley in November.

"People will say England are expected [to win the group] because they've been so strong in qualifying over the last few years, but it's a strong group," said Martin.

"We need to pick up points consistently. It'll be tough, but we just need to make sure that we're in and about it and in 18 months time in with a chance of doing it."

Martin believes the squad can take heart from almost qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals but need to learn the lesson of turning good performances into positive results, particularly against the leading nations.

Scotland played well against Germany in the last qualifiers but lost twice.

"It was the same in the last campaign," he said. "Everyone looked at that group and said how tough it was and we were one win away. That hurt all of us.

Scotland's Shaun Maloney scores against Germany
Martin says Scotland did well against Germany twice before losing

"If you look at the Germany games, we probably deserved to get something out of them and didn't.

"Even the Poland one [a 2-2 home draw] at the end, when they scored in the last minute. So we're capable of it.

"It's fine margins; we put in a lot of good performances in the last campaign, but against the bigger teams we've got to try to turn those performances into points.

"Ireland did it and that was probably the difference over that campaign.

"We don't set up negatively under this manager. We always go to try to get all three points and I don't think that will change. The players enjoy that and the trust he puts in is.

"We'll have a right go, like we did last time, and hopefully we take it all the way and do it. You have to turn that hurt into something."

Martin says a "strong start" against Malta will be important for the campaign and that the players believe it is a group "we can get out of".

He realises there will be added pressure because of another failure to qualify for a major finals.

"But, as a group, we're good at closing that off and our job is to get a win on Sunday," added Martin.

"We've not got a Gareth Bale or someone like that, so the team has to be better than the individuals. We have to try to make the team as strong as possible."

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