John McGinn has urged Gordon Strachan’s Scotland squad to “kick on” in their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after demolishing Malta 5-1 in their opening qualifying game.
The Scots now face a double-header against Lithuania at Hampden on Saturday night and Slovakia away next Tuesday but the Hibs midfielder believes they go into those matches with confidence.
McGinn has teamed up with the rest of Strachan’s squad at their luxury hotel on the banks of the River Clyde accepting he faces a tough challenge to force his way into the national manager’s thoughts for either game but the former Scotland Under-21 captain is determined to do his level best to do just that.
Admitting it will be good for him to get away from club football for a few days – Hibs will be facing St Mirren in the Irn-Bru Cup as the national side put the final touches to their preparations for the visit of Lithuania – McGinn said: “I’d rather have been going away with three points,” a reference to the Easter Road side’s disappointing draw with Dundee United at the weekend.
“But hopefully I can train well and be involved. We’ve got two big games. We’ve had a great start but we need to carry it on. We have the players and if we play to our best we will have a good chance.”
Stating the obvious that six points from these next two Group F qualifying games would be “preferable,” McGinn added: “But it doesn’t always work out that way. We have to look for the three points from Saturday and take it from there.
“Malta had only lost 1-0 to both Italy and Croatia so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I know the sending off [Malta’s Jonathan Caruana was red carded in the 60th minute when the score was 2-1] helped, but to win the first game 5-1 was pleasing. It’s given us a boost to go and kick on but we have to take advantage of the game at Hampden.”
Next up for Scotland will be a trip to Wembley next month to face England, in turmoil after the shock revelations which preceded the departure of manager Sam Allardyce after only 67 days in the job, a situation which McGinn described as “interesting from an English point of view,” before insisting: “We have to concentrate on ourselves.
“It’s a tough group, everyone knows that. But we have the players that can make an impact.”
While conceding it will be difficult to work his way into a midfield which, despite the international retirement of Scott Brown, still boasts the likes of Darren Fletcher, Robert Snodgrass, James Morrison, James McArthur and Shaun Maloney among others, McGinn believes Red Bull Leipzig’s £12 million signing, 19-year-old Oliver Burke, can prove an inspiration for other youngsters like himself.
McGinn knows the former Nottingham Forest winger from having been in a few squads together, leading him to say: “Oli is quiet, dedicated and focused, so I’m not surprised how well he has started in Germany.
“It will suit him over there as he can keep himself to himself and concentrate on his football.
“Seeing him doing so well over there is really pleasing and hopefully a few more of us can take his lead.”