SCOTLAND’S players are ignoring the critics who have written off their chances of qualifying for Russia 2018 after being the only Home Nation not to make it to Euro 2016, according to midfielder Barry Bannan.

Gordon Strachan’s side failed to even finish third in Group D and get into the play-offs and had to watch as England, Northern Ireland and Wales all competed in the finals in France this summer.

It will be far harder for the national team to make it through to the World Cup in two years’ time because only the nine first-placed teams from the European section groups qualify automatically.

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The eight best runners-up, meanwhile, will go into two-legged play-offs with the four winning teams progressing to the finals.

However, Bannan, who is looking to establish himself as a regular starter with his country following Scott Brown’s international retirement, stressed the national team was still encouraged by their Euro 2016 campaign.

The Sheffield Wednesday man starred for Scotland in their 5-1 win over Malta in their opening qualifier against Malta last month, a result which put them top of Group F, and is hoping to start against Lithuania at Hampden tomorrow evening.

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He stressed the members of the national squad don’t share the pessimism of their doubters about their chances going into the double header against Lithuania and Slovakia in Trnava on Tuesday.

“You try not to listen to them,” he said. “It’s what we think – it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. We can definitely do it.

“We have a lot of experience in that dressing room, guys who have played three or four campaigns. So we have a mix of experience and young boys coming through.

“It’s a good mix for this campaign. We speak between ourselves and we are confident of doing something really good in this group.

“What we have to do is concentrate on the positives from the last game and I think we are quietly confident we have enough in the squad to win the game on Saturday.”

Bannan added: “I don’t know if people are running out of patience with us because we didn’t qualify for the Euros. All we can concentrate on is ourselves, not all the other nations who made it there.

“There were a lot of positives to take from that campaign. We were probably one result away from being in the play-offs.

“When people see all the other teams going they do expect us to qualify too. They feel we should be there if the rest of them are there. But all we can do is focus on ourselves and on trying to reach the next one.

“But with the other teams going the people from here expect us to make it – if they are there why not us? We have to worry about ourselves though and try to get there.”

Bannan got the nod to play in Ta’Qali last month after James McArthur was forced to pull out with an injury and he appreciates the presence of the Crystal Palace midfielder in the Scotland squad reduce his chances of starting.

But he believes the competition for places will benefit the national team and help them to record a second Russia 2018 qualifying victory against Lithuania.

“It's the same at club level as well, I am fighting for my position there as well,” he said. “It's no different. It's actually better really. You want competition. If you didn't have competition you rest on your laurels a little bit. I think competition brings the best out of everyone. Having competition is good for this country going forward.

Read more: Time-served Bannan looking to cement his place in Scotland side after Brown's retirement

"I think James and I have different attributes, definitely. Games need different players and that's when the manager's job is tough. But it is our job to make his job tough by doing things in training and in games when you get the chance.

"That’s why training is so important here. It’s been proven in the past that if you can impress during training he’ll give you a shot in the games. That makes every day important. I’m fighting every day to try to push myself into the starting eleven.

“That’s why, when you come away for ten days, you have to put everything into training because it can be the little things that give you the edge over other people. I’ve learned that over my time."