Scotland manager Gordon Strachan says he is inspired by the young players in his squad, who have given him “a wee lift”.
Strachan’s side get their World Cup qualifying campaign under way in Malta on Sunday and Strachan highlighted Oliver Burke, who left Nottingham Forest to join Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in August, as a particularly notable addition to his squad.
Scotland face neighbours England in Group F, along with Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.
Strachan concedes it is going to be tough to qualify as only one nation from each group books an automatic spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but he is positive that the injection of youth in his squad can boost their chances.
“When I come back and meet these guys, especially the newer ones, you get inspired,” Strachan told BBC Sport.
“When I watched them train this week, I thought ‘yeah, I love football’. I love watching good players play, good professionals and good lads, so it’s been an inspiring week for me.
“Six or seven young players have come into the squad and they’re not just there because they’re young. They’re there because they’ve proved themselves to the coaching staff. They’ve given us all a wee lift after not qualifying [for Euro 2016].”
Burke has become one of the most high-profile players in the Scotland squad following his big-money switch – earning comparisons to Real Madrid and Wales forward Gareth Bale from Scotland team-mate Matt Ritchie – and Strachan hailed the professionalism of the 19-year-old.
“When I picked Oliver, everyone in Scotland was scratching their head and saying ‘Who is this? We’ve got better players here in Scotland’,” Strachan said.
“He’s proved that he is a bit different, he’s quiet off the pitch, he’s got headphones on all the time, he’s not got a ridiculous hairstyle. He goes on the pitch to show he’s different and that’s the sign of a good player.”
England are clear favourites to win Group F under new manager Sam Allardyce and Strachan said qualifying through the play-offs might be Scotland’s best route to their first World Cup since 1998.
“I think if you asked anyone around the football world they would say [England finishing top] is correct,” Strachan said. “If [the play-offs] is the way it’s got to be done, that’s the way it’s got to be done because I do believe we’ve got a good side.
“I think we’ve got hard games. Slovenia and Slovakia are going to be hard, similar to Poland and Republic of Ireland from the last campaign.
“Then you’ve got the massive, big team at the top, we have England, [last time] we had Germany, and we’re looking to improve our performances.
“You never know when the big game is coming. When you look back at the last campaign, the big game was Georgia away, so you never know when the real big game is.”
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