Estonia Begins Euro 2016 Qualifiers, With More Hope and a Debt to Slovenia ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The national football team faces Slovenia in Tallinn today for the first game on the road to the European Championships in 2016, with hopes high after reaching the playoffs four years ago.

Logic dictates that Estonia will be in prime position to qualify for Euro 2016, as it beat Slovenia and Serbia for second place behind only Italy in the qualifiers four years ago, and the fact that more teams will make it to the main tournament, with even the third team in the group having a chance.

The national team has matured, beginning the qualifiers with much the same team, with a few youngsters added to the mix, and a new coach who represents an upgrade in tactical play. Indrek Schwede, the editor in chief of Jalka, the premier football magazine in Estonia, said previous coach Tarmo Rüütli allowed the players to improvise, while Magnus Pehrsson works hard on pre-match details, such as scouting and tactics.

The downside is that Estonia enjoyed a lot of luck four years ago, including Slovenia - with nothing to win - beating Serbia in the last game of the 2012 qualifiers. That result sent Estonia to the playoffs at the expense of Serbia.

The group, arguably, is also much stronger. Switzerland, boasting a new generation of talent, is ranked ninth in the world and had a great run at the World Cup. And with England managing to qualify for nearly all major tournaments, the first two spots have been all but handed out.

According to the enlarged format of Euro 2016, the first two qualify directly, with one best third team also heading to France for the tournament and eight others playing for four places via play-off matches. Estonia's goal is to beat Slovenia and Lithuania to third place, which would greatly be enhanced by a result, even a draw, in Tallinn tonight.

According to sports data and media company Infostrada Sports, Estonia's chances of making the main tournament are 7 percent. Slovenia has a 23 percent chance and Lithuania only 2 percent. San Marino has not been mentioned.

Estonia's chances of topping the group are 1 percent, with England winning the group at 49 percent, followed by Switzerland with 46 percent and Slovenia with 3 percent.

Estonia's calendar for the qualifying tournament is as follows:

Estonia vs. Slovenia, September 8, Tallinn
Lithuania vs. Estonia, October 8, Vilnius
Estonia vs. England, October 12, Tallinn
San Marino vs. Estonia, November 15, San Marino

Switzerland vs. Estonia, March 27, tba, Switzerland
Estonia vs. San Marino, June 14, Tallinn
Estonia vs. Lithuania, September 5, Tallinn
Slovenia vs. Estonia, September 8, Maribor
England vs. Estonia, October 9, London
Estonia vs. Switzerland, October 12, Tallinn

Estonia's previous results against the five teams in group E:

0-6, Estonia vs. Switzerland, Tallinn in 1992
4-0, Switzerland vs. Estonia, Zurich in 1993

0-3, Estonia vs. England, Tallinn in 2007
3-0, England vs. Estonia, London in 2007

1-1, Estonia vs. Slovenia, Tallinn in 1992
2-0, Slovenia vs. Estonia, Ljubljana in 1993
3-0, Slovenia vs. Estonia, Maribor in 1995
1-3, Estonia vs. Slovenia, Vilnius in 1995
1-0, Slovenia vs. Estonia, Domzale in 2007
0-1, Estonia vs. Slovenia, Tallinn in 2010
1-2, Slovenia vs. Estonia, Ljubljana in 2011

In 45 games from 1923 to 2012, Estonia has 18 wins (only two after 1938), 8 draws and 19 losses.

San Marino
0-1, San Marino vs. Estonia, San Marino in 2002

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