The very first qualifier for UEFA EURO 2012 pits Estonia against the Faroe Islands, with the hosts boasting the better record as the Group C sides prepare to meet for the sixth time at senior level.
• Estonia coach Tarmo Rüütli has selected a squad featuring all his senior stalwarts, including FC Tom Tomsk goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko, all-time leading scorer Andres Oper, AZ Alkmaar defender Ragnar Klavan and Middlesbrough FC newcomer Tarmo Kink.
• "In modern football, every team has a chance," said Rüütli. "There are fewer and fewer easy matches, especially when you're talking about Estonia. However, at the same time we're far from being an easy opponent for any team."
• Estonia squad
Goalkeepers: Sergei Pareiko (FC Tom Tomsk), Mihkel Aksalu (Sheffield United FC), Artur Kotenko (AEP Pahos FC)
Defenders: Enar Jääger (Aalesunds FK), Raio Piiroja (Fredrikstad FK), Alo Bärengrub (FK Bodø/Glimt), Tihhon Šišov (Xäzär Länkäran FK), Taavi Rähn (no club), Dmitri Kruglov (İnter Bakı PİK), Gert Kams (FC Flora Tallinn), Igor Morozov (FC Levadia Tallinn), Andrei Sidorenkov (SønderjyskE)
Midfielders: Ragnar Klavan (AZ Alkmaar), Aleksandr Dmitrijev (Hønefoss BK), Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls), Sander Puri (Larissa FC), Konstantin Vassiljev (NK Nafta Lendava), Ats Purje (AEP Pahos FC), Martin Vunk (Syrianska FC)
Forwards: Andres Oper (no club), Sander Post (FC Flora Tallinn), Kaimar Saag (Silkeborg IF), Tarmo Kink (Middlesbrough FC), Sergei Zenjov (FC Karpaty Lviv).
• In the opposition camp, coach Brian Kerr has turned to Faroese First Division high flyers NSÍ Runavík and HB Tórshavn for ten members of his 20-man squad. He will nonetheless have to cope without injured midfielder Súni Olsen and has coaxed 30-year-old Jákup á Borg out of international retirement as his replacement.
• The visitors will also be missing Vagnur Mohr Mortensen, Atli Danielsen and Høgni Zachariasen for various reasons, prompting Kerr to bring uncapped trio Jústinus R. Hansen, Karl Løkin and Hendrik Rubeksen into the international fold.
• Five members of the squad are still eligible to play for the Under-21s, who can take their points tally into double figures if they beat Andorra in their UEFA European U21 Championship qualifier on the same day. "I think we have to prioritise the national team and say that if these players are good enough to be in the squad, we should keep them in the squad," said Kerr.
• Faroe Islands squad
Goalkeepers: Gunnar Nielsen (Tranmere Rovers FC), Tórdur Thomsen (HB Tórshavn)
Defenders: Jóhan Troest Davidsen (NSÍ Runavík), Einar Hansen (NSÍ Runavík), Jónas Tór Næs (B36 Tórshavn), Egil á Bø (EB/Streymur), Atli Gregersen (Ross County FC), Hendrik Rubeksen (HB Tórshavn)
Midfielders: Fróði Benjaminsen (HB Tórshavn), Símun Samuelsen (HB Tórshavn), Rógvi Poulsen (HB Tórshavn), Jann Ingi Petersen (NSÍ Runavík), Bogi Løkin (NSÍ Runavík), Jústinus R. Hansen (NSÍ Runavík), Christian Lamhauge Holst (Silkeborg), Jákup á Borg (B36), Karl Løkin (ÍF Fuglafjørdur)
Forwards: Christian Høgni Jacobsen (NSÍ Runavík), Christian Mouritsen (B36 Tórshavn), Jóan Símun Edmundsson (Newcastle United FC)
• Estonia's record in five fixtures against the Faroe Islands reads W3 D1 L1 (W2 D1 L1 in Estonia).
• Their previous meetings comprise three friendlies and a pair of UEFA EURO 2000 qualifiers. Ominously for the Faroe Islands, the Baltic side won both competitive games without conceding, triumphing 5-0 in Tallinn on 4 June 1998 and 2-0 in Torshavn a year and three months later.
• Martin Reim scored once in both games, while the 5-0 victory remains both Estonia's biggest competitive win and their most emphatic home success since they became FIFA members.
• They matched that margin of victory in a 6-1 away friendly defeat of Andorra in 1996, while their biggest win remains a 6-0 success against Lithuania in 1928.
• In terms of friendlies, honours are even. Their very first meeting, in Pyla, Cyprus, on 24 February 1996 ended in a 2-2 draw, before the Faroe Islands won a rare away game in Tartu on 6 August the following year, prevailing 2-0.
• That victory is one of only three two-goal away victories they have achieved against European opponents, with the others a 3-1 win against San Marino and a 4-2 defeat of Luxembourg in Spain.
• Estonia just about atoned for that 2-0 loss when the sides met in their third friendly in Tallinn on 4 June 2008, storming into a 3-0 half-time lead before holding on for a 4-3 win after the visitors rallied. That is the only time the Faroes have scored three goals in an international game and still lost.
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