Estonia to face Belgium, Wales in football world cup qualifiers
Estonia's national football team will face Belarus, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Wales in qualification rounds for the 2022 World Cup, following Monday's draw.
Estonia had already faced Belarus in the qualifiers for the now postponed 2020 European Championships, whose finals will likely take place after qualifying for the 2022 world cup has already started, probably dispersed across various European cities thanks to the pandemic.
The five countries make up qualification Group E, with games to be played from late March 2021 through to November of the same year, along with play-off rounds for those concerned in March 2022.
Monday saw 55 participating teams drawn in batches of five or six per group, making a total of 10 groups.
Group winners will qualify automatically for the finals, to be held in Qatar in November and December 2022, with second-placed teams to play off.
The draw saw teams seeded by estimated strength, as well as region, which meant that the Estonian national team could not have been drawn in a group with Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, the Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia and Lithuania
Of the teams Estonia is drawn with, the form against Belgium is not encouraging, having lost 8-1 in Brussels and 2-0 in Tallinn in the last world cup qualifiers, in a group which Belgium topped. The Belgian team currently retains some star names from the ensuing 2018 finals, where it finished in third place.
The Estonian national team's record against Wales is two losses, in friendlies in 2004 and 2009, while Estonia has lost three times to the Czech Republic, most notably in European Championship qualifiers back in the late 1990s.
The team has met Belarus a total of eight times, and was in the same qualifying group for the 2020 European Championships, now postponed to 2021 as things stand. The record in the qualifiers for Estonia was a loss and a draw.
Of the remaining groups, Estonia's nearest neighbors Latvia and Finland are in Groups D and G respectively. Finland's qualifiers include meetings with France and Ukraine, while Latvia will have to play the Netherlands, Turkey and Norway, as well as Montenegro and Gibraltar. Russia was drawn in Group H with Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.
The first games are played between March 24 and 31 2021, with the next rounds in September 1-8, October 8-12 and November 11-16, followed by the playoff games March 24-29 2022.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte