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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League


Gordon Strachan singled out Steven Naismith for special praise as Scotland ended their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over Croatia on Tuesday.

Naismith - earning his 25th cap - was on the scoresheet at Hampden Park, following up Barry Bannan's 73rd-minute saved penalty.

Norwich's Robert Snodgrass had earlier headed the Tartan Army in front during the first half.

It was Naismith's third goal of the season after his strikes for Everton against Chelsea and Fulham.

Assessing the former Rangers man's contribution, Scotland boss Strachan said: "I must give special praise to Steven Naismith because he was fantastic. He has made a big difference to the team in the last two victories.

"Steven playing up front doesn't get many hits at goal but he brings others into play and gets us up the pitch. He annoys defenders and helps the rest of the team.

"He has always been a good player - as long as you keep your fitness and have a willingness to learn, you will get better.

"He just wants more knowledge to come to him and he will take it in."

Naismith scores against Croatia

Scotland finish Group A in fourth spot after an often frustrating qualifying campaign.

Indeed, the win over Croatia was the only occasion they took maximum points on home soil but Naismith himself believes it is a positive to take into the Euro 2016 qualifiers which start in just under a year's time.

Naismith said: "There's definitely progress being made under the new manager and it was a team performance rather than individuals.

"There were a few comments before about how long it's been since we won a competitive game and tonight we showed that we can do it and can compete against the best.

"We'll take this into the next campaign and show that we can challenge and try and get to a major tournament."

Nikica Jelavic was an 80th-minute substitute for the Croats in Glasgow.

Both Jelavic and Naismith are now back at Everton and preparing for Saturday's game against Hull City at Goodison. Click here to secure tickets now.

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