Staff Predictions: Estonia vs. England, the Epic Battle ({{commentsTotal}})

The Estonia versus England football match might not be Eurovision, but still a good chance to loosen the shackles of serious journalism, and weigh in with minimally edited thoughts and predictions.

Here are the predictions from the ERR News team:

Kristopher (forced by other staff to write his predictions):

Being a journalist and not ordinarily a hardcore football fan, I find the most exciting thing that ever happened between an Estonian and a British side occurred 18 years ago this week. In 1996, the national team was still based at Kadriorg stadium, a far cry from today's facilities. In that October 9 World Cup qualifier, in weather similar to this week’s, Scotland complained that the lighting was too poor for a 18:45 game time. The game was moved up to 15:00. The Estonians were halfway between Pärnu and Tallinn and couldn't make it that fast; it is a surprisingly large country. Records indicate that the "Yugoslav referee" (as said, this was a long time ago) tried to get the game going anyway, even tossing a coin to see whether the Scots or the phantom Estonians would decide first possession. Scotland was initially awarded a default 3-0 win, which meant the game was 90 minutes shorter and much higher-scoring and more exciting than the eventual 0-0 rematch.

Estonia has home field advantage against England on Sunday, and a similar scenario is perhaps Estonia’s only real chance. The recent glitches with the Estlink power cable, the spotty flight connections… these could all be opportunities rather than problems. Can arrangements be made to locate the English team along some two-lane road outside the capital with only several hours to go before the match?

Juhan-Markus (grew up in Lasnamäe and Cambridge):

First, I would like to thank the English team for its World Cup performance. After more than a decade of following the team I decided that there will be no emotional returns for my energy and hope. I stopped supporting England and chose a team, besides Estonia of course, which will win, even if playing an awful game.

As for Sunday's game, Estonia will fight, match England in tackles and passing and have as many chances. The Estonian team will score one goal, Vassiljev will have a hand in it, and make many brilliant defensive moves. But England will win because its greatest strengths lie in its wings, and Estonia's weakest area are the wings. 3-1 to England, but only due to cold, hard math, and people will later say Estonia deserved a draw.

Scott (US journalist; did you know America advanced out of the Group of Death in Brazil?):

In this year’s World Cup, the English national team was a hot mess. The nation that invented the sport didn’t advance to the second round. In fact, it didn't win a game.

A lot of reasons for England’s downfall as a national power has been the media and rooting culture that’s developed around the national team in the modern era. It simply has become more of a burden for its top talent to play for the team and to face the tabloid and fan expectations that come with possible failure.

A little of that has played out in the last few weeks, where Daniel Sturridge, the Liverpool striker and World Cup starter and one of the national team's only exciting young players, has been left off the Euro 2016 qualifying squad. According to the UK Telegraph, his absence is due to a conflict between his club and Hodgson over how much rest Sturridge would receive following its qualifying games. The message to take away to fans is - the Premier League season is more important than national team play; England’s best players aren’t "all-in" for the qualifiers.

Do I expect Estonia to beat England on Sunday? Not really. Estonia, with its lack of a football population base and its still growing national league, in terms of interest and skill-building, still has a long ways to go. They almost made the Euro tournament four years ago, and I'm confident they will one day. Stranger things have happened, with a Euro 2016 Group E favorite, Switzerland, already losing twice in pool play.

I’ll call it 2-1 England, with the jerseys on the field more impressive than the talent that will actually be on display. For football stars Sunday night, you’ll have to look at Youtube videos.

Moonika (Estonian-born, Birmingham-educated):

Thursday night's unfortunate proceedings might turn out to be exactly what Estonia needed to put up a decent fight against England on Sunday.

The first 80 minutes against Lithuania were definitely not promising. If this is how they choose to play against England then the match has already been lost. But if Pareiko's mistake was good for anything, it showed us that Estonia plays much better when it is stuck under a bus.

The team has frequently shown that it plays better against stronger squads, than against those with whom they actually stand a chance of winning. The match against Lithuania was yet again lost to the national problem of over-thinking. Post-game interviews showed how badly the team wanted to secure that one (not even three!) point.

There will be no such problem with England. No one expects them to win, or even draw for that matter. But we do (or I do) expect them to put up a good old stubborn struggle. And then anything can happen. Slovenia was beaten because its players lost their nerve. England has a different temper but it could get confused if things are not going according to plan. England also has a track record of underestimating the importance of spirit and desire. A 5-0 win over San Marino might have given them that extra boost of confidence that Estonia could now exploit.

On the whole, a 2-0 loss would not be disappointing if Estonia manages at least a few good shots on goal. I just hope they won't go down without a fight.

Stuart (an Englishman in Tallinn)

There are no easy games for an England fan to watch, and though this game has been dismissed as a three-point banker by the English press, with players like Wayne Rooney often failing to show their club form for their country, Estonia have to believe they can stage an upset.

Belief is a problem though. Any side that can beat Slovenia but then lose to Lithuania has something complicated going on in its psychology. If Ragnar Klavan can put in a performance befitting of a Bundesliga defender, and Henrik Ojamaa can show why it is that Motherwell liked him enough to sign him twice, Estonia have a glimmer of a chance.

My real-world prediction? A grindingly dull game will end with Adam Lallana and Rooney nicking goals in the last fifteen minutes to deny Estonia a point and win 2-0.

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