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Scotland on the up-and-up

Steven Naismith, the Everton striker, believes Scotland has its best chance of qualifying for a major tournament since he has been involved with the national set-up.

Gordon Strachan has overseen a recent resurgence, racking up a five-match unbeaten run. That progress was underlined yesterday when Scotland were confirmed as the 22nd best team in the world in the latest FIFA rankings.

The Euro 2016 qualification campaign kicks off in September and Naismith is optimistic Scotland will end their 18-year exile from major tournaments. Ahead of matches involving Germany, Ireland, Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar, he said: "It's the most optimistic I've been since I've been involved in the set-up. We've got a great squad, a lot of competition for places.

"Germany are going to be the hot favourites and you've got to take those games and get what you can from them, [but] we definitely believe we can get second spot.

"The games with Poland and Ireland will be really big, but then Georgia will have a say in the group as well."

Naismith is having a sensational campaign at Everton, recently inspiring the Merseyside team to a 3-0 win over Arsenal as they pursue a place in Europe next season.

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