FOR Steven Naismith, thoughts have moved quickly from Norway to Nice, where the draw for Euro 2016 will take place next February.
The Everton striker has been suitably encouraged by recent performances, including Tuesday’s 1-0 win in Molde, to take in his stride whatever is thrown at Scotland. And, with the next European Championship finals expanded from 16 to 24 teams, there is a degree of confidence that this squad can end the national side’s long absence from the business end of competitions. No-one in the Tartan Army needs reminding that you need to go back to 1998 for the last time Scotland graced the finals of a major tournament, but Naismith has great belief in his team-mates.
“I’ve said it before – this is the most confident I’ve ever been with a squad pushing on and actually getting to a finals,” said the frontman.
“We’ve beaten Croatia home and away – the top seeds in our last group. We have to believe that we can compete against anyone, go away from home and pick up wins and then, hopefully, win at home.
“It’s just encouraging that we know we can face most teams and think we can get a result.”
Scotland are likely to be in the fourth pot of seeds for the draw in the Palais des Congrès Acropolis in Nice on 23 February but Naismith is not fazed.
“To be honest, over the last few campaigns, you hear things like it’s a tough draw or a good draw,” he said. “Whatever you get you just need to deal with.”
While there was an element of good fortune about Scotland’s win in Molde, Naismith detects a new-found belief in the side under Gordon Strachan.
“Yes, he’s maybe changed the mentality from defending and trying not to lose a goal to going out to express yourself and have the confidence to go and play,” he said. “That’s the biggest change that I’ve noticed.”
Naismith’s only regret is that qualifying for Euro 2016 will not get under way until September.
“Yes, that’s a pity,” he said. “We are only going to have friendlies [until qualifying starts].
“We are starting to have a real good base and I’m sure the next time we meet up the manager will have more to work on and it’s all geared up for the Euros.”