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EARLY FREEZE: The snow proved to be no match for this fair weather game.
RIGA - Estonia’s Under 17 national football team will have to wait until Nov. 10 to see if they can qualify for the 2013 UEFA Under 17 championships elite round as their match against Wales on Oct. 26 was abandoned after 26 minutes due to a blizzard in Tallinn.
Rather than collecting Horse Chestnuts and brightly colored autumn leaves, last weekend’s weather better suited snowball fights as a week of key international qualifying matches and domestic championship games were seriously disrupted by snow and ice. With a winter cyclone dumping up to 40 centimeters of snow in some places in the Baltic States, the Estonian Football Federation hosted a week-long series of qualifying matches for the 2013 UEFA Under 17 championships, involving the national teams of Estonia, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Mercifully, the inclement weather did not arrive until the end of the week, by which time Northern Ireland had defeated Wales 4-0 in Kadriorg, and Estonia had failed to overcome a strong England team as they went down 2-0 in Tallinn against a squad that included Manchester United and Chelsea youth team players. The England goals on this occasion coming from Everton’s George Green and Reise Collier of Crystal Palace.
Two days later, Estonia did grab a point in their Group 7 encounter with Northern Ireland, Frank Liivak scoring on 18 minutes, only for the Estonian lead to be cancelled out by a Ross Lavery effort for Northern Ireland. England meanwhile guaranteed that they qualified for the elite round after edging Wales 1-0 and then beating Northern Ireland 3-2, in a match that kicked off early on an artificial pitch to avoid the heavy snow that was forecast in Estonia.
Estonia’s rescheduled match against Wales will now recommence from its 26th minute abandonment on Nov. 10, with Wales 1-0 up from the original snowy encounter. Estonia will need to win by five clear goals if they are to finish second in the group, although, technically, they can still qualify as the best third-placed team from the Under 17 qualifiers.
Elsewhere, Latvia and Lithuania might have wished for extreme weather conditions as they each took on Belgium and reigning Under 17 champions, Holland, in Group 3, hosted by Belgium. The Latvian junior side can be proud of themselves though as Holland just managed a 2-1 victory over them in Belgium; Nikita Kolesovs’ 80th minute goal giving the heavily fancied Dutch a genuine scare late on.
The same day, Lithuania was unable to get past Belgium, who eased to a 2-0 victory, but did themselves proud two days later when they managed a 0-0 draw with Holland. Belgium’s 5-0 victory over Latvia on Oct. 25 ensured that Belgium and Holland qualified for the elite round in the spring, leaving the bottom two teams to play for the wooden spoon in Oudenaarde in the closing group game on Sunday. Latvia won this particular battle for bragging rights with a 1-0 victory thanks to Arnolds Revelins.
Meanwhile, the domestic seasons draw to a close in the Baltic States with the Latvian Virsliga now a three-horse race between FC Daugava, Skonto Riga and Ventspils. FC Daugava’s 2-0 victory over FK Jelgava on Oct. 27 should all but ensure that the Daugavpils club takes their first Virsliga title, with just two matches remaining and a four-point lead, but Skonto and Ventspils kept up the pressure in the title race with away victories against FK Daugava Riga and Jelgava, respectively.
In Lithuania, it is down to the wire between Zalgiris and Ekranas, with Zalgiris two points ahead but with only one game left to play, while Ekranas know that should they win their remaining two fixtures they will be crowned champions. In Estonia, Nomme Kalju are the 2012 Meistriliiga champions, after wrapping up their first Estonian title on Oct. 9 with a 1-0 away victory against Kuressaare.