James Morrison believes Scotland are in a “good place” for their date with destiny at Hampden.
The West Bromwich Albion midfielder is expected to be a key part of boss Gordon Strachan’s midfield against Slovakia tomorrow in the absence of captain Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Matt Ritchie.
The Scots need to win in order to keep the dream alive at least until Sunday in Ljubljana, when they will bring the curtain down on Group F against Slovenia.
That latter fixture will be a dead rubber unless three points are taken off the Slovaks so the pressure is right on Morrison and his mates.
However, he feels the momentum is with Scotland after three wins and a draw in the last four qualifiers.
Morrison said: “We are right in it.
“It is in our hands and we know what we have to do.
“We have momentum, I think.
“Results do that to a team. Wins breed confidence and produce performances.
“I just feel we are in a good place going into this huge challenge.
“In the last campaign we started well and faded so hopefully it is reversed this time.
“Everyone wants it badly.
“There has been a bit of pressure on us for the last three or four games but when we have had to get results we have done that.
“This is the same scenario, really.
“We have to get a positive result on Thursday night.
“Right now I would take a bad performance and a win because it is all about the three points.
“We don’t want to think about not performing because then it might happen.”
The road to Russia is still long, winding and riddled with potential potholes.
Even if the Scots do pull off a stunning double success against the Slovaks and Slovenians they would have to wait to see if they have secured a play-off (the eight best runners-up from the nine groups make it) and then negotiate a two-legged decider.
Victories tomorrow and Sunday would give Strachan’s men 20 points.
The teams sitting second in their groups, excluding Scotland’s section, are Sweden (currently on 16 points), Portugal (21), Northern Ireland (19), Wales (14), Montenegro/Denmark (jointly 16), Italy (19), Bosnia-Herzegovina (14) and Iceland (16).
So Morrison is well aware of how great the challenge is as the Scots aim to make it to a major finals for the first time since the World Cup in France in 1998.
“We’ve got, potentially, four massive games because if we do get the two wins our job isn’t done,” he said.
“We then have to go and win a play-off.
“There is no point getting to a play-off and having that nearly situation.
“A play-off isn’t all right if you lose it.
“It is like getting to a semi-final, not performing and not getting the win.
“So we have a job in hand and it will be fantastic for everyone involved with Scotland if we can get it done.”
Morrison discussed with reluctance the last make-or-break qualifier at Hampden, when the Scots lost a stoppage-time equaliser to Poland while the Republic of Ireland beat Germany at home to pip them for third place and play-off spot.
As we all know, the Irish went on to reach the Euros in France along with the English, Welsh and Northern Irish, while the Scots sat at home watching the action on their TVs.
He said: “We nearly did it but nearly isn’t going to be good enough this time.
“It was similar to the England game here, if you look back at it.
“We have to learn from those experiences and see games out which is what good teams do.”