Scott Brown says he is determined to qualify for a major finals with Scotland but knows it will not get any easier.
The Scots’ last appearance on the main stage was at the 1998 World Cup in France and to widespread dismay throughout Scottish football they lost out on qualification for the expanded 2016 Euros in the same country after finishing fourth in their six-team section.
Gordon Strachan’s side finished three points behind the Republic of Ireland, who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs.
Scotland captain Brown said “fair play to Ireland and congratulations to them as well but it was a hard one to take” as he confirmed he will remain on board for the 2018 World Cup in Russia where the Scots will look to emerge from a qualifying group that includes old foes England, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.
The 30-year-old Celtic captain, who is in contention for a return against Kilmarnock at Celtic Park on Saturday after recovering from a knee complaint, said: “I am looking forward to it.
“A lot of people have been saying I am retiring from international duty and it has been fun listening to it all. I spoke to Gordon and we had a laugh about it.
“Hopefully my next game will be huge for me as it will be my 50th cap and it is a great honour to play 50 games for Scotland.
“The only thing missing is to get to a European Championships or a World Cup and that’s what I want to do.
“I wouldn’t like to say it will be my last qualifying campaign, I will be 32/33 at the end of it so hopefully I will be fit for a few more.
“Yes, it is going to be a lot harder as there is only one team going through automatically but it is still there to fight for.
“We have a great bunch of lads, everyone is still together and we look more like a team than we ever had in the past.”
The former Hibernian midfielder, who signed for Celtic in 2007, was speaking at the launch of his book, ‘Scott Brown: My Celtic Story’ at Parkhead where qualification campaigns was the dominant theme.
Celtic are aiming for their fifth successive Ladbrokes Premiership title but have failed to qualify for the Champions League two years running.
And after home and away defeats in their Europa League section to Norwegian side Molde, Ronny Deila’s men have to beat Ajax at home and Fenerbahce away to get into the knockout stages of the competition.
The club’s relationship with European football’s elite club competition is bound to be a discussion point at the club’s AGM on Friday at Celtic Park but Brown had a pre-emptive message for Celtic fans.
“Keep faith with us,” he said. “It has been a long couple of years not having Champions League football but we will get there.”
The Parkhead stalwart remains confident of beating Ajax and Fenerbahce after 2-2 draws against both sides earlier in the campaign.
“We have let ourselves down and we know that but we have two games to go and can still qualify,” he said.
“It is going to be extremely hard. Ajax are very well organised but we put in a great performance over there and were a little bit unlucky that we didn’t get the three points.
“We had a great performance again against Fenerbahce at home and lost slack goals. It is just in the Molde games that we have let ourselves down.
“But we are still in it, we still have that slight chance and we need to hold on to that as long as we possibly can.
“It is in our hands now and hopefully we can do that.
“We know we have the players in the dressing room to do it we just have to make sure we turn up and give it our all.”
Brown has been out since injuring his knee in the warm-up for the Scottish League Cup quarter-final win against Hearts at Tynecastle last month but is confident of being back for the visit of Killie.
He said: “I have been doing a lot of running and a lot of changing direction to make sure everything is back to 100 per cent.
“I have managed to train the last two days so it is all good.”