Scotland's Martin: 'We believe' ahead of World Cup crunch match

Agence France-Presse
Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Striker Chris Martin says there is growing belief within the Scotland squad as it prepares for Sunday's World Cup qualifying group finale, buoyed by a late win against Slovakia.

Substitute Martin played a key role in Thursday's last-gasp victory, putting Martin Skrtel under pressure as the visiting skipper sliced the ball past his own goalkeeper, Martin Dubravka, in the 89th minute.

Tension at Hampden Park grew as Dubravka pulled off a succession of impressive saves, while the home side twice hit the crossbar through Martin and Leigh Griffiths before the late breakthrough led to wild scenes of celebration.

The win against 10-man Slovakia leaves Scotland second in Group F on 17 points and Gordon Strachan's men know a win away to Slovenia on Sunday could see them reach next month's play-offs.

"I always felt confident," said Martin, who replaced James Forrest on the hour mark. "When I came on I was involved as a striker. We were getting plenty of balls forward in and around their box so I always felt we were going to get chances.

"I think that was probably the key - we kept believing. We have worked very, very hard in this campaign to get to a point like this and we didn't want to throw it away. I think you saw that belief and that character to keep going."

Qualification for Scotland looked a long shot at the turn of the year after successive 3-0 defeats by Slovakia and England left them with four points from four games.

But Martin's late winner against Slovenia in the countries' previous meeting kick-started a charge.

"We have gained real momentum over the last few months with the performances and results we have had," the Derby forward said.

"Winning breeds confidence and the performances on top of that, that's why you saw the confidence in the lads."

"We have great belief and togetherness in the squad," he added. "We believe in each other and the manager, and what we are doing, and the plan in front of us. That shows in the results, but also in the tough times where we are up against it, we still carry on believing in each other.

"Up to this point it has worked but we know there is a massive job still to do."

The winners from all nine European groups qualify automatically for Russia 2018. The eight runners-up with the best records against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups go into the play-offs for UEFA's remaining four berths.