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Estonia in focus

Published: Monday 7 November 2011, 9.30CET
Estonia look to create more magic as they take on the Republic of Ireland for a UEFA EURO 2012 place; sees how the Baltic nation came from nowhere to reach the play-offs.
Estonia in focus
Estonia celebrate a goal in qualifying ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 7 November 2011, 9.30CET

Estonia in focus

Estonia look to create more magic as they take on the Republic of Ireland for a UEFA EURO 2012 place; sees how the Baltic nation came from nowhere to reach the play-offs.

A remarkable campaign began in suitably dramatic fashion, substitute Kaimar Saag and captain Raio Piiroja both scoring in added time as Estonia snatched a 2-1 home win against the Faroe Islands in the first UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying fixture back in August 2010. Although a 2-1 home defeat against eventual section winners Italy followed, Estonia had led for more than 30 minutes and built on that by coming from behind in Belgrade to stun Serbia with a 3-1 win.

A 1-0 home defeat against Slovenia risked undoing that good work, but Tarmo Rüütli's team then took more points off Serbia with a 1-1 home draw. Defeats in Italy and, surprisingly, the Faroes damaged Estonia's chances, but they finished with three successive wins against Northern Ireland twice and Slovenia away although, with their fixtures completed, they still needed Slovenia to defeat Serbia on the section's final day to give them an unexpected play-off place.

2010 FIFA World Cup
Qualifying Group 5: P10 W2 D2 L6 F9 A24 Pts8

Estonia endured a fairly torrid start to qualifying, suffering defeats by Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina – a 7-0 humbling in Zenica – and European champions Spain. Yet they then recovered to take five points from their next three games, which included a home draw with Turkey and a 1-0 win over Armenia. Despite some spirited Estonian resistance, an eventual 4- 2 defeat in Turkey in September 2009 sparked a second three-game losing streak that only ended on the final day of qualifying when Tarmo Rüütli's fifth-placed side defeated Belgium 2-0 in Tallinn.

Qualifying Group E: P12 W2 D1 L9 F5 A21 Pts7

Painful though that start to FIFA World Cup qualifying proved to be, it was a lot better than the way the Estonians opened their campaign for UEFA EURO 2008 – they suffered seven straight defeats without scoring a single goal. Their luck finally turned when Indrek Zelinski struck an injury-time winner to beat Andorra 2-1 in August 2008. Further points followed with a 1-1 draw against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and a second win over Andorra as Estonia finished sixth in their seven-team group.

UEFA European Championship best performance
Estonia claimed third place in their group in UEFA EURO 2000 qualifying after collecting eleven points from ten matches. Two wins against the Faroe Islands and a 2-1 victory in Lithuania were the highlights of a campaign which also featured a goalless home draw with runners-up Scotland and a 1-1 away draw against a Bosnia and Herzegovina side whom Teitur Thórdarson's team eventually pipped to third place on goal difference.

Key facts
Though they have yet to qualify for a major tournament, Estonia can certainly give higher-profile opponents a difficult time – besides their UEFA EURO 2012 exploits and that 2-0 victory against Belgium, they also achieved a 0-0 friendly draw with Portugal and a narrow 1-0 friendly defeat by Brazil during 2009. Estonia have taken part in the last four qualifying competitions for a UEFA European Championship and have improved since losing all ten games of their campaign for EURO '96.

Play-off record: None

Last updated: 07/11/11 19.52CET

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