Video: 25 years since national football team's first post-independence win

Photo: ERR

The men's national football team won its first major competitive match, following the restoration of independence, twenty-five years ago, ERR's sports portal reports.

The anniversary arrived Tuesday; on October 5 1996, Estonia defeated Belarus 1:0 in a World Cup qualifying encounter at the Kadriorg stadium, thanks to a strike from Sergei Hohlov-Samson, now a board member at FC Levadia, at 52 minutes (see video above).

The last time an independent Estonian team had triumphed had been way back in 1937, with 1:0 away win against neighboring Finland.

Estonia contested the 1994 U.S. World Cup qualifiers, after regaining independence in August 1991, but lost all bar one of their matches (a 0:0 away draw against Malta was the exception), as well as losing all 10 of their qualifiers for the 1996 European Championship finals, held in England.

Other early-independence highlights include the 1998 World Cup qualifier at "home" against Scotland, which finished 0:0. The match was played at a neutral venue in Monaco, after the visitors had complained about poor lighting conditions.

Estonia had more success in the qualifiers for the 2000 European Championship finals, doing the double over the Faroe Islands, 5:0 and 2:0, and beating Lithuania away 2:1, but still failed to qualify.

None of the three Baltic States have qualified for the World Cup finals to date, though Latvia qualified for the 2004 European Championships in Portugal.

Estonia has had more international distinction with its individual players; most recently, defender Ragnar Klavan plied his trade in Italy with Serie A side Cagliari Calcio until this year, and before that at Liverpool, in the English Premier League (EPL). Goalkeeper Mart Poom also made EPL teams his home during his playing career, with Derby County, Sunderland and then Arsenal, between the late 1990s and mid-2000s.

Strikers Henri Anier and Henrik Ojamaa both played for Scottish side Motherwell a few seasons ago, while midfielder Sander Puri had a season at St. Mirren, and several other players have recently played for a range of teams across Europe.

Anders Oper is current national team all-time top scorer with 38 goals, accrued over 20 years, 1995-2014. Martin Reim, who played for the national team from independence to 2009, is most-capped (157) and at one time was the most-capped player in Europe.

The national team is currently firmly rooted to the bottom of qualifying Group E for the 2022 World Cup finals to be held in Qatar, with four games to go. They are next in action at home to Belarus, on Friday.

Home games are generally played at the twenty-year-old A. Le Coq arena, in Tallinn.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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