Estonia defeated 2-0 by Ireland

  • 2000-10-19
  • Simon Walsh
DUBLIN, Ireland - True, Estonia suffered a 2-0 defeat to Ireland at a World cup qualifier in Dublin's Lansdowne Road Stadium last Wednesday, denying team manager Ruutli Tarmo his pragmatic wish for a 0-0 draw.

But it is also true that the margin of defeat at the hands, or rather, feet of Ireland has been narrowing, albeit slowly, since Baltic teams were first re-acquainted with Western competitors after the demise of the Soviet bloc.

In 1994 Ireland beat Estonia 4-0, but since then the margin of victory has been slowly chipped away.

Both players and seasoned media commentators here have acknowledged the progress made by Baltic teams.

In a pre-match commentary, Gary Doyle of Ireland's national tabloid The Star wrote, "The Estonians will be underestimated at our peril, though their 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Portuguese last month gives a fair reflection of their standing in the European game.

"Things have improved since June of '94. They finished fifth in the Scottish group, missing out on third spot only on goal difference."

There was an unsettling start to the proceedings last week when a power failure blacked out the floodlights, and forced the teams to do their warm-up exercises in the dark.

During the match, Estonia focused on defense, and Ireland's mid-fielder Roy Keane with teammate Mark Kinsella were viewed as the principal instruments of their rivals' defeat. "We had a few chances, and sometimes we were even equal to the Irish, though I think our mid-fielders could have held the ball a little longer," Tarmo commented after the game.

Asked how his team's approach might change when they greet Ireland in Tallinn next June, he replied lightheartedly, "We could change everything, but it might not make any difference."

Though The Star's match report was headlined "Estonia's Dark Day," their reporter, Kieran Cunningham conceded, "Estonia did show enough in patches that they could be a handful when we travel to Tallinn."

Ireland team manager Mick McCarthy told a post match press conference how the Scotland team manager Craig Brown had called Estonia the "hardest team that he ever had to come up against."

The previous day, Estonia's under 21 team had their Irish encounter on the Buckley Park pitch in County Kilkenney - in driving rain.

While they suffered a one nil defeat, it was a crucial save by goalkeeper Kisseljov that confined it to that.

The road is a long one and hard; but the Baltic soccer teams are definitely on it.