Estonia head coach Häberli: 'Nations League proved we can handle pressure'
The Estonian men's football team defeated San Marino 4-0 on Monday in their final UEFA Nations League match of the season. The win meant Estonia topped their three-team group, with a perfect record of four wins from as many games. Head coach Thomas Häberli believes that his side's performances during the competition prove they can cope with playing under pressure.
"The result is great, of course. We struggled a little bit at the beginning and we needed some moments to get in the game, but especially after the first goal , the second really went very well," Häberli told ERR after arriving back at Tallinn airport.
Ahead of this year's Nations League campaign, where they faced Malta and San Marino, Estonia found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being favorites to win their group, a situation which Häberli believes created additional pressure on the team.
"I didn't know how the team would handle (the pressure). It was the first time in a long time that we were expected to win games. It is always a bit different with the national team than it is for clubs. So, we did it and that's the most important thing and now we know that we can handle the pressure and maybe that means there will be less pressure next time as well," Häberli said.
According to Häberli, the experience of success in this season's Nations League will also have a positive impact on team spirit, with the players now having plenty of experience of winning games at international level.
"If I'm not mistaken, yesterday (Monday - ed.) was my eighth win as Estonia's head coach. When I came here I told the players that we need to win games. That's why we play football. It doesn't matter if it's a friendly, the Baltic Cup, a World Cup Qualifier or whatever."
"Obviously I understand that it was a division D division game, but for me the most important thing is that we are playing well and are on the right track. We still have a long way to go, but at the moment I'm happy and looking forward now to the Baltic Cup," Häberli said.
Estonian captain Konstantin Vassiljev (Flora Tallinn) was also pleased with Estonia's performance during this season's Nations League Campaign.
"We can definitely be satisfied because we achieved our aim," said Vassiljev. "But that doesn't mean that it will be any easier for us now in Division C. Our aims have been achieved, so now we will focus on the next games and look forward to the Nations League draw," he added.
Four wins from four Nations League matches gave the team confidence. "The victories were important, especially considering the constant pressure on our shoulders. Winning was a must in every game, and we managed it in all four matches, which is great. Now we have to be aware, that we won't face teams like that again."
When asked how much longer he would be able to continue performing for the national team, 38-year-old Vassiljev seemed determined to keep playing as long as possible.
"It's hard to say. I understand that, eventually the time will come, and other players will have to take over," he said. "(Me playing) is more a message to them. I'll play as long as I play, but they have to start doing things. Both at international level and at home (for their clubs)."
Estonia's next competitive fixtures are in the Baltic Cup, where they face Latvia in Riga on November 16. Victory in that match would see them defending the trophy they won in 2021 against either Lithuania or special guests Iceland in the final, at Tallinn's A. Le Coq Arena on November 19.
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Editor: Michael Cole