Estonia lost its World Cup Qualifier at home to the big names of Belgium, 5:2, Thursday evening, despite taking an early lead with a Mattias Käit strike after just two minutes.
Estonia has lost all three games in its Group E qualifiers so far, matches which even for European teams started ahead of the summer's European Championships, after these were postponed a year due to the pandemic.
Roberto Martinez' men remain at the top of the group, with 10 points of a possible 12 from its first four qualifiers.
Estonia's manager, Swiss national Thomas Häberli, said pre-match that while the encounter with one of the world's top teams would be a challenge: "I know that anything is possible in football. It's to our advantage that we don't know in advance how the game will end. We don't know the result right now and that's a plus."
For his part, Martinez had some praise for Estonia's long-serving captain, Konstantin Vassiljev, who, he said, brought intelligence and quality to the team's midfield.
"It is impressive how little time Estonia needs to join the attack," the ex-Everton manager said before the match, seeing this appraisal play out to its conclusion twice in the game once it happened.
While Belgium's lineup has seen some changes since going out to Italy in the European Championships quarter finals in the summer, such a well-stocked squad was likely to see at least some stars coming to Tallinn – with Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Toby Alderweireld (Al-Duhail), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), and captain Eden Hazard (Real Madrid) all getting starts.
Võitle, Eesti, võitle! Meeste koondis kohtub täna MM-valikmängus Belgiaga. Mängu avavile kõlab kell 21.45, otseülekanne ETV2 vahendusel kell 21.25. #eestikoondis #südamejapalliga #WCQ pic.twitter.com/NtFvalrdMO— Eesti jalgpall (@eestijalgpall) September 2, 2021
Thursday's encounter at the A. le Coq Arena saw the hosts open their account after just two minutes, after Slovenian club NK Domžale player Mattias Käit struck up the middle after a brief run.
Estonia's lead lasted 20 minutes, and was brought to an end by a Hans Vanaken header off a cross from the right.
On 29 minutes, Romelu Lukaku, lurking inside the penalty area benefited from a bit of pinball between Estonia's defenders to turn and drive a low strike to make things 2:1 in favor of the visitors, a score line that remained unchanged going into half-time.
The powerful Chelsea man was on point again in the 52nd minute, taking his time to deliver another low strike from 18 yards out, despite being surrounded by four or five blue shirts.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel hit home a fourth after a scramble in front of the goal, and right-back Thomas Foket got the fifth, sprinting in on the right to pick up a cross from the left from Yannick Carrasco.
The hosts had not given up, however, and striker Erik Sorga (VVV-Venlo, on loan from D.C. United) picked up a consolation goal, the last of the seven, after finding himself unmarked near the Belgium far post and knocking in a Vlasiy Sinyavskiy low cross from the right.
Click on the video below for the scoring highlights.
Estonia playing at home again on Sunday
Attendance on Thursday evening was 6,685. Referee was Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez (Spain).
The national team is in action in Cardiff next Wednesday, against current third placed Group E team and European Championships finalists Wales, but before that, Estonia faces a friendly at home at the A. le Coq Arena against another U.K. team, Northern Ireland, on Sunday.
The 2022 UEFA World Cup Finals are in Qatar, starting November next year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte