TALLINN - Who would ever have thought it. Estonia on top of its qualifying group for the 2006 World Cup in Germany? Can it be real?
In fact, the team has acquitted itself remarkably well in the first stages of its qualification campaign, first with a 2-1 victory over Liechtenstein on Aug. 18, and then with a crushing 4-0 defeat of Luxembourg on Sept. 4 in Tallinn.
The Estonians were at Luxembourg right from the whistle, and in the sixth minute Ingemar Teever headed the ball into the net from a corner. The Estonian team bundled bodies around the goal mouth, which seemed to disconcert the Luxembourg defense, and they failed to cover Teever, the 23-year-old forward who plays for Tallinn's FC TVMK.
The home team received an extra advantage over its relatively weak opposition in the 34th minute when Irish referee Alan Kelly showed Luxembourg's midfielder Daniel Huss the red card for bringing down Urmas Rooba as he steamed forward in attack.
Teever had already earned the man of the match title before the first half was up, though, when his long pass into the Luxembourg area was intercepted by Manou Schauls, who clumsily converted it into an own goal.
But it wasn't such a great day for Estonia's young and promising central forward Vyacheslav Zachovaiko, who failed to realize two or three great goal scoring chances in the first half. The young player from Tallinn's FC Flora also earned a second yellow card and will now miss the all-important game against Portugal.
The Estonian attack was much sharper in the second half when the veteran Andres Oper, who currently plays for FC Torpedo Moscow, substituted Zachovaiko and scored in the 62nd minute.
Five minutes later Kristjan Viikmae scored the fourth goal after a short pass form Teever. Viikmae made it 5 - 0 several minutes later but the goal was disallowed for offside.
Luxembourg's defense was awful, at best, but at least its goalkeeper Alija Besic could not be blamed for any of the goals. Besic played extremely well and pulled off an excellent save when Oper failed to beat him in a one-on-one just minutes before the final whistle.
Luxembourg's Charles Leweck livened up his team's rare counter attacks toward the end of the second half, but he was a sad and solitary figure for most of the time.
So Estonia currently tops its group, at least until it faces Portugal, which has a game in hand, on Sept. 8.