Steven Whittaker admits if this qualifying campaign ends in failure for Scotland, then his career ambition of playing for his country at a World Cup will not happen.
At 33, the defender knows this is his last shot at appearing for the Dark Blues on the grandest stage.
To reach Russia next year the Scots need to win both their remaining qualifiers, against Slovakia at Hampden tomorrow night and against Slovenia in Ljubljana on Sunday.
If that is achieved Scotland will then have to overcome a play-off to end what will be a 20-year absence at major international tournaments come next summer.
Whittaker made his international debut in August 2009 and has amassed 31 caps. If Scotland fail to reach Russia, the Hibernian player will be 38 by the time the next World Cup is played in Qatar in 2022.
When asked if this was his last chance, he said: “Definitely, yeah. I’ve been around international level for a long time now and had never managed to get to that final stage.
“Time is definitely running out now because I’m 33 and not getting any younger.
“We’ll see how this campaign ends and take it from there.
“It’s not been a regret, but it’s been something I’ve wanted to achieve through my career.
“I’ve played for my country, played in European competitions and just playing at that championship for my country is something that personally I’ve always wanted to get to.
“Hopefully this time will be the one. We’ll need to wait to see and obviously, it wasn’t a great start but we’ve managed to claw our way back and give ourselves hope.
“It’s something that’s missing from my CV and who knows if I’ll achieve that with my country when I’m playing.
“But if it’s not my time I’m still desperate for whoever is in the squad, and for the fans as well, to go and be able to support Scotland at tournaments again. It would be fantastic for the nation.”
After a poor start to the campaign which saw Gordon Strachan’s team take just four points from the opening four matches, the Scots’ form has improved dramatically in the latter part of the campaign.
From the last four matches Scotland have taken 10 points out of a possible 12 and Whittaker believes they have momentum heading into the must-win double header.
The former Rangers and Norwich City full-back said: “It wasn’t ideal with fixtures at the start. It wasn’t the results we were looking for.
“But we still believed we could make a go of it and we’ve managed to get a few more positive results lately.
“We feel like we have a bit of momentum behind us going into these last couple of fixtures. It’s still going to be a hard task but hopefully (tomorrow) we can get the three points and see where that takes us.”
The Scots are missing captain Scott Brown and his key midfield colleague Stuart Armstrong for these crucial matches.
Whittaker came through at Hibs alongside Brown and, while he admits the skipper will be a loss, he thinks Scotland have plenty of other good midfield options, such as John McGinn, who plays alongside him at Easter Road.
“We’re going to miss him (Brown) on the park,” he said. “He’s shown his form for Celtic and for Scotland over the last year and it’s been fantastic.
“He’s our captain and our leader but it gives somebody else the chance to come in and stake a claim.
“We all know what his character is like around the place and what his leadership on the park is like, it’s probably made a difference that he’s there pulling the team along.
“But we’ve got great depth in that position as well. There are guys who are all champing at the bit to play and Scott will be a miss – so will Stuart, who was fantastic in the last couple of games as well.
“But we still believe we have enough in the squad capable of coming in and making a difference.
“John’s been fantastic for us, I’ve only been at the club a short period and he’s been our best player.
“He’s got the lot for a midfielder, he can defend, he can drive, he’s strong, he’s good at passing, he’s got goals in him and he’s got a great future ahead of him.
“If John gets the chance to play I’m sure he’ll do well.”
If Whittaker lines up for Scotland it’s likely he’ll be playing in front of Celtic goalie Craig Gordon.
The Hoops and Hibs drew 2-2 at Parkhead last Saturday, and one of the game’s memorable moments came when keeper Gordon pulled off an incredible save from Whittaker at point-blank range to keep the score at 1-1.
The visitors scored a second through McGinn minutes later before being pegged back by Callum McGregor’s equaliser.
Whittaker knows his chance could have helped end Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run under Brendan Rodgers and is pleased Gordon will be on the same team as him tomorrow.
Of the chance and Gordon’s quality, he said: “In my mind I thought ‘I’ve scored’ because the ball came to me, I’ve just reacted and turned it goalwards.
“In hindsight when you’re only three yards out you think ‘how have I not scored?’.
“I’ve watched it back and he comes from nowhere and tips it around the post.
“He has no right to be there. It would have been a nice moment to score and put the team 2-1 up but it wasn’t to be and he made a nice save.
“Everyone is important in their own right and we all need to do our jobs properly. If the last line of defence is breached you rely on your goalie and Craig has come up with the goods on numerous occasions.
“A lot of goalies are going on a little bit longer than outfield players. They don’t need to run around as much and his level of consistency in his performances is still there. He’s not showing any signs of dropping.”