Aberdeen’s Mikey Devlin believes he has already faced his most-difficult opponents of the season.
The defender was part of the Scotland team that was routed in Russia before bouncing back to thump San Marino.
Devlin admits it was a bittersweet experience to pick up his first full cap in Moscow and suffer a 4-0 defeat.
But the 26-year-old is adamant that Steve Clarke’s men can learn from the recent run of poor results.
Facing the hugely-impressive Russia captain, Artem Dzyuba – who scored two of the four goals that came in a 27-minute period — was a footballing education.
Devlin said: “The guy was top quality and even better behind him was Aleksandr Golovin. I probably won’t play against any players better than that this season.
“That was a great learning curve for me. But they were harsh lessons.
“I hope in time the Russia game is something I can look back on and be proud of. But, as a central defender playing in a back-four, I need to take responsibility for my part in a disappointing defeat – particularly the second half.
“When I look back at the game, there were things I noticed I was doing because players of that quality force you into them.
“It was a fantastic experience and will hopefully improve me as a player.
“I think we have a really strong squad, and that’s what hurt most.
“As much as Russia have good players, I don’t think that gulf should be there.
“We have to learn from the disappointment in Russia, knowing the mistakes that were made aren’t good enough and that you can’t make them at this level.”
Devlin isn’t getting carried away with Scotland’s 6-0 victory over San Marino.
However, he’s heartened by the way the win brought new energy to a squad that has struggled in the Euro qualifiers.
Next month the Scots face Cyprus away and Kazakhstan at Hampden Park.
The Dons centre-half says there’s still something to play for in Group I.
He went on: “Although we can’t qualify from the group, we need to finish where we think we should be. That, at the very least, is third.
“We can’t finish second so we need to do everything we can to win the next two games and create momentum going into the Euro 2020 play-off ties in March. They are vital games.”
Devlin would love to partner Aberdeen team-mate Scott McKenna in the Scotland defence. That has proved impossible as both have suffered injuries over the last year.
The pair were re-united for yesterday’s visit to Motherwell, however, recording a clean sheet as the Dons headed home with an impressive win.
Devlin added: “I don’t think anyone’s an automatic pick but, in terms of centre-backs, Scott has everything needed to play at the top level.
“I would expect him to be in the running next time. Liam Cooper might also be fit for next month.
“We know how good Scott is and we expect him to get better and better as he plays more games.
“If Scott and I get the opportunity to play together for Scotland, it would be great.
“Last year we had a good thing going and then injury stopped that for both of us.
“But there’s competition for places with lots of good centre-backs. I have to mention Stuart Findlay too, getting his first cap and a goal against San Marino.
“There’s a lot to be optimistic about.”