ALEX McLeish believes Scotland can secure automatic qualification for the Euro 2020 finals despite being drawn alongside Russia 2018 semi-finalists Belgium in Group I in Dublin yesterday.

The national team were beaten 4-0 by the top placed team in the FIFA world rankings in a friendly at Hampden back in September.

But McLeish, whose side will also face World Cup quarter-finalists Russia, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino next year, is optimistic they can finish in the top two in their section.

“We want to usurp the teams ranked above us,” he said. “We’d like to be inspired by smaller countries who went to the Euros last time as third and fourth seeds, like Northern Ireland and Albania.

“Belgium are a wonderful team with wonderful individuals and they have also shown they can play as a team.

“But we’d like to think when Belgium come to Glasgow that they get a tougher game than maybe they did the last time. We gifted them their goals a wee bit, but there were some good elements of our game and we’ve improved since then.

“We have some great teams to play against, long journeys, but I’m confident about the group of players we have. If we can play to the level we did in the last two games (against Albania and Israel) I will be very confident.”

Scotland secured a Euro 2020 play-off place when they finished first in Group C1 of the Nations League last month. However, McLeish is determined to reach the finals, which Scotland will co-host along with 11 other countries, through the traditional route.

“We haven’t been at a big competition for 20 odd years,” he said. “It is horrible. The fans throughout the world haven’t seen the Tartan Army in their full regalia. We want to try and change that. We want to qualify through these group stages.

“We have got a foot in the door in the Nations League, but we want to qualify through this group. Positive results against Belgium and Russia will give us a good chance.

Robert Martinez, the Belgium manager whose assistant is former Scotland player Shaun Maloney, dismissed suggestions that his side would win Group I comfortably.

“I see Scotland as an evolving, emerging nation,” he said. “We all know Russia had a fantastic World Cup.

“Cyprus we know well from our World Cup qualifying group. They always have strong com-petition, the coach is very aware tactically.

“And Kazakhstan and San Marino - you always have to perform in any game. So I don’t think it’s as straightforward.

“Obviously it’s going to be a completely different game against Scotland. The Scottish team under Alex McLeish has been developing, winning their Nations League group. Clearly this is a young team that is going to develop.”

Martinez, who is married to a Scot, stressed that Maloney will not have any divided loyalties.

“Shaun has adapted really well in his role and it’s been a joy to have him around the camp,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll be very professional on the games.

“I had a disagreement with my daughter when we faced England - now it’s going to be with my wife, which is a harder battle to win.”