Guinness flows freely tonight – Ireland victorious 4-0
Estonia was trounced today at European football 4-0 in Tallinn by Ireland. The teams are slated to meet again next Tuesday in Dublin.
The Estonian Delfi news portal warned in an editorial earlier today against both excessive optimism as well as despondency, should Estonia lose.
There are any number of explanations for why the match turned out the way that it did. Although no one can accuse the Estonian soccer team of complacency, it was apparent as the evening wore on that Ireland was the more skilled team of the two. Better players, better communications on the field, better technique.
We need to draw the appropriate conclusions. If we do, over time, Estonian soccer will improve.
A few days ago, (November 9) The Irish Independent did a pretty good job of explaining why Estonian football, the level of which is improving, still has a long way to go. “From July 18, 1940 when they defeated Latvia 2-1 pre-occupation, Estonian withdrew from the beautiful game.” As the Irish paper elaborates, Estonians didn’t play football during the Soviet occupation, because that’s what the Russians engaged in, along with ice hockey. Basketball, on the other hand, was an Estonian game, and “football lapsed into a coma”. Cycling and cross-country became favored Estonian sports in addition to basketball. There is more to be read about this in Simon Kuper’s 1994 book “Football Against the Enemy”, later released in the US as “Soccer Against the Enemy”.
Estonian football veteran Martin Reim thought before tonight’s game that even getting this far is a good accomplishment, considering how much lost time needs to be made up.
No excuses, Estonia needs to improve. Football may be a lot more popular now than it was two decades ago, but tonight’s match showed how much work still needs to be done. Barry Glendenning of the Guardian writes that Estonians “might have been a bit overwhelmed by the occasion of the biggest football match in their country’s history”.
Ireland, on the other hand, had a lot to lose, having been “perched between death and glory”, as the team’s captain Robbie Keane emphasized.
A Profusion of Yellow Cards
Estonia would have lost even without the “help” of the head referee Viktor Kassai, but more than one sports commentator felt Kassai ran amok tonight, “awarding” the Estonian side with penalties left and right while appearing to ignore several similar breaches committed by the Irish.
Bizarrely enough, Giovanni Trapattoni – the manager for Ireland – seemed to downright hint at the possibility of favoritism at yesterday’s press conference, saying “perhaps the referee will intervene on our behalf.”
One sports commentator for Estonian National Television said about the referee’s behavior: “What has taken place today is just not fair”. Similar sentiments were voiced by Barry Glendenning of the Guardian: “ANOTHER RED CARD! Estonia are now down to nine men, rather unfairly, it must be said. Their skipper Raijo Piiroja picks up his second yellow card in a few minutes for…. absolutely nothing that I could see.”
In all honesty, Estonia tried and had a few good moments, but was defeated by a better team from a country where the kids grow up playing soccer. No excuses, no sour grapes, we just need to improve. There is still the Tuesday match in Dublin. It was The Beach Boys who said it with “Be True to Your School“. It looks as though the Estonian team will need all of the moral support it can get!