Malta midfielder Andre Schembri backs Scotland to reach Russia World Cup

Andre Schembri says playing against Aberdeen at Pittodrie was a "special" moment
Andre Schembri says playing against Aberdeen at Pittodrie was a "special" moment

Malta midfielder Andre Schembri believes Scotland are worthy of a place at the 2018 World Cup.

The 31-year-old says Gordon Strachan's side are better than most of their opponents in qualifying Group F.

Scotland sit third with three games remaining after beating Lithuania 3-0, and face Malta at Hampden on Monday.

"I've played against Slovakia and Slovenia and I believe it is Scotland who deserve to go through," Schembri told BBC Scotland.

"They are more compact, aggressive, have more talented players and have a great manager who can inspire his players.

"They are a good team but they need to believe more in themselves. I believe they can make it to the World Cup."

Scotland are four points behind Slovakia in second and six behind England in first.

They almost certainly need three wins from their remaining three matches against Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia to finish in second place.

Of the nine European World Cup qualifying groups, the eight best second placed teams go into the play-off round for spots in Russia.

Part-timers Malta have failed to gather any points yet but did put in a decent performance against England at Wembley on Friday.

Gareth Southgate's men won 4-0 but Malta's rear-guard held out until the 53rd minute, and the other three goals were conceded in the closing 10 minutes.

"In the first half we played really well and were tactically disciplined," said Schembri.

Andre Schembri has 83 caps and played in the 5-1 defeat to Scotland in 2016
Andre Schembri has 83 caps and played in the 5-1 defeat to Scotland in 2016

"We kept the English team at bay and at half-time it was 0-0, but in the second half we were tired because the possession was much more with England.

"We conceded three goals in the last 10 minutes and I think the result was a bit harsh on us.

"It's going to be more difficult on Monday because we know how the Scottish team plays at home. The tempo is higher than our tempo and we know Scotland needs to win to keep their hopes alive.

"We have nothing special or any surprises for Scotland. But you never know, every game has its moments and maybe we can get some points from it."

Schembri plays his club football for Apollon Limassol and scored in the second leg of their Europa League third qualifying round win against Aberdeen.

He has 83 caps and follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in representing Malta.

"We had better players than Aberdeen, although they are a very good team at home," added Schembri.

"Their fans are amazing and when we played there it was something special for me.

"My two nieces were born in Scotland and my brother lives in Perth so I have good connections. If we can get some points I can tease my nieces and nephews. They will be there along with all my family.

"We're one of the few in Europe where my father and grandfather played for the national team. It's something special for us and hopefully I will have my own kid playing with the national team as well so that the tradition keeps on running."

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