Ireland Advances towards Euro Cup and Estonia Reaches Football Maturity
After a rankling 0-4 loss in Tallinn for Estonia last Friday that left a bad taste in the mouths of many, Estonia tied Republic of Ireland 1-1 in Dublin tonight – the result of a hard-fought, satisfying (for both sides) and fairly played game. ”Best performance ever”, this according to Estonian TV announcers, who said that on their “personal expectations scale”, Estonia attained four points in Dublin of a possible five. One has to also keep in mind what David Hytner of The Guardian reported from Dublin: “Estonia bore the scars from the first-leg. They missed three key players to suspension and lost a fourth, the left-back Dmitri Kruglov, to an early injury.” Ireland advances to the Euro Cup next year with Estonian best wishes, while the Estonian team can return home feeling good about itself. It would be too much to expect Estonians to be elated, since Republic of Ireland attained a 5-1 aggregate win, but I’m writing here from a long-term and balanced Estonian perspective. Instead of returning home in shame, some Estonian players can possibly expect contract offers from decent teams. As long as they have jobs, Estonian football has prospects for improving and proceeding to a new level during the time frame of the next two, three or four years. Taavi Rähn is one guy to keep our eyes on, Martin Vunk is another, and Pavel Londak is a third.
The Irish, with their decades of experience, may still be able to boast of better handling of the ball and overall mastery, but Estonia rose from the ashes on Tuesday evening in Dublin’s snazzy Aviva stadium and didn’t give the Irish the satisfaction of a win on their own home pitch – a solid accomplishment. It was a good, clean and hard-fought contest that the Dutch referees permitted Estonia to play to the end with a full array of 11 players, compared to Friday, when the Estonian side was whittled down to 9 men.
The second half in particular was satisfying, with 800 Estonian fans joining in the chant: “Eesti – suru Iiri vastu muru!” – “Estonia – bring Ireland to her knees” (“press her onto the turf” is a more literal translation).
The overall consensus is that Estonian football has had a good year. One indication of this is psychological resilience. Not more than some years back, the 0-4 loss experienced on November 11 might have taken the team aback, but if they were somehow fazed, it didn’t show tonight – not one iota.
If things continue in the same manner, Estonia may realistically stand a chance of advancing next year, and if not, then a few years down the road. To block as many Irish shots as the Estonian side did and to cause a good bit of cliff-hanging titillation at about the 86th minute tonight and during the very last minutes of play- this is as good of a result as one could expect under the circumstances. A maximum result, actually.
Estonia may not quite be rocking them yet – “Buddy you’re a young man-hard man, shoutin’ in the street, gonna take on the world some day”, but she acquitted herself with mettle and more tonight. To engage in the making of predictions is a risky business, but who knows? The future of Estonian football may bear watching.
Did I mention? Vassiljev’s goal for Estonia, smashed in from 25 yards (meters) at the 57 minute mark was a gratifying one! It flew past Irish goalkeeper Shay Given with centimeters (inches) to spare.