Estonia Draws England in Euro 2016 Qualifying Group
Estonia knows its path to the Euro 2016 football tournament in France. It will hardly be an easy one with England and Switzerland both gunning for qualification.
Coach Magnus Pehrsson's team were placed in Group E for qualifying pool play for the tournament on Saturday. Estonia's draw consists of Slovenia, Lithuania, San Marino, Switzerland, and England.
England are the special opponents – they are the favorites," Pehrsson said to UEFA.com. "They will bring more interest to our group and will make it more attractive for all the other teams."
"I wanted to have one really strong team among our opponents – England or Germany, for example. If we prepare well we can be competitive against all the other sides. Estonian football has been developing from day to day and we will do our best to be even stronger than before," he said.
Estonia has beaten two teams in its pool in international competition – Slovenia and Lithuania. Slovenia won in Tallinn in 2010, but was beaten at home 1-2 a year later in the qualification to 2012 European Championships, which allowed Estonia to claim second place in the group, and advance to the next round. The team has faced Lithuania before in qualifying play, splitting two matches in 1999 where each team won the match on the road.
Estonia defeated San Marino 1-0 in a friendly in 2002. Estonia has not played San Marino since.
Estonia has played England twice, losing 3-0 home and away in 2007. It has lost twice to Switzerland by a combined 10-0 goal differential.
Estonia's schedule for the qualifying round is as follows:
Monday, 8 September 8, 21:45, Slovenia
Thursday, October 9, 21:45, in Lithuania
Sunday, October 12, 19:00, England
Saturday, November 15, 19:00, in San Marino
Friday, March 27, 21:45, in Switzerland
Sunday, June 14, 19:00, San Marino
Saturday, September 5, 19:00, Lithuania
Wednesday, September 8, 21:45, in Slovenia
Friday, October 9, 21:45, in England
Monday, October 12, Switzerland
Switzerland and England are heavy favorites to advance, however, due to an expansion of the tournament, 24 teams will qualify instead of the usual 16. Besides the top two from each group, one third-placed team will also qualify directly, with eight other third-placed teams to compete in a playoff for the remaining four places.