TALLINN - Estonia defeated Latvia 2-1 in a 2006 World Cup qualifying match on Sept. 3, dashing Latvia's hope to compete in next summer's tournament. Latvia had not lost a soccer game to Estonia in 65 years.
Even head coach of the Latvian national team, Jurijs Andrejevs, expressed his surprise and disappointment.
"They beat us with our own trump cards, they won the duels," he told Leta news agency, adding that Estonia deserved to win.
Estonia wasn't short of fans, as every seat in Tallinn's A. Le Coq Stadium was sold out. The game picked up quickly as Andres Oper scored for the home team in the 11th minute, giving the packed stadium something to cheer about.
After an intense first half, Estonia's Maxim Smirnov scored the winning goal in the 70th minute, making the score 2-0.
Tired and discouraged by Estonia's strong defense, Latvia's playing tactics began to fall apart. Juris Laizans finally scored for Latvia in the 90th minute, but their dream of qualifying for the World Cup was already gone.
According to Andre-jevs, the match came down to Latvia's forwards, who failed to outduel their opponents with a strong offense. After qualifying for the Euro 2004, the loss to Estonia came as a hard blow.
The team's next game is Sept. 7 against Slovakia. Meanwhile, Russia won 2-0 over Liechtenstein, and group 3-leader Portugal beat Luxembourg, moving five points ahead of idle Slovakia.