Scotland vs. Estonia - Not Just a Friendly
The first game of the year for the Estonian national football team, the first for Scotland's new head coach and a jagged history between the two sides should make for an interesting match tonight.
The eighth-ever meeting between the teams will take place in Aberdeen, Scotland at 21:45 Estonian time.
Since the first meeting in 1993, Scotland has defeated Estonia five times with another two matches ending in a draw.
And this time around, the Blueshirts will be facing a seasonal disadvantage. While the Scottish season is heating up, most Estonians are playing for teams that are currently in the middle of winter hibernation.
“The opponents certainly have a small advantage in that [they currently play week in, week out], but we must compensate somehow, like with our willpower,” Estonia's head coach Tarmo Rüütli said on ETV.
As often happens in football, the two sides share more than meets the eye.
It was Scotland’s new coach, Gordon Strachan, who bought Estonian winger Tarmo Kink to the English club Middlesbrough when he was their head coach in 2010. The deal went for a reported 1.2 million euros - the most ever paid for an Estonian footballer. Neither’s spell at the club was successful.
And one of Estonia’s best young players, Henrik Ojamaa plays in the Scottish top division for Motherwell, whose head coach Stuart McCall was recently named assistant coach to Strachan.
“He normally wishes me success, but as he is tied to the Scottish team, he didn't this time. Some friendly banter has been going on within the team. Because of that, the game is more important to me,” said Ojamaa.
Fans on both sides will no doubt remember the "game that never was," an incident that has become legendary in Estonian football.
It happened in Tallinn in 1996 when the Scottish team, visiting for a World Cup qualifier, complained about the quality of the floodlights at the Kadriorg Stadium. On the very morning of the game, FIFA, bowing to the Scottish grumbling, moved the kick-off time to 15:00 from the original 18:45. The Estonians countered that their team, and more importantly their fans, would not be able to react quickly enough to the last-minute change and protested by not showing up at the stadium.
The referee initially awarded the game to Scotland, but FIFA scheduled a rematch in Monaco the following year that ended 0-0.
Another qualifier, this time in Scotland in 1998, turned sour after Estonia protested the bad quality of refereeing after a 2-3 loss. Midfielder Marko Kristal had been sent off while the referee awarded a disputed free-kick that resulted in an equalizing goal.
Scotland currently sits at 69th in FIFA rankings while Estonia is 83rd.