The Estonian women's national football team are in action twice this week as they aim to win the annual Women's Baltic Cup. Estonia kick-off their tournament with a semi-final against Lithuania on Thursday, with the winner of that match going on to play either Latvia or the Faroe Islands, in Sunday's final. Matches during this year's tournament take place in Tartu and Võru.
The Estonian team arrived in Tartu with the aim of winning the Baltic Cup for the first time since 2014. According to striker Signy Aarna, who plays her club football for Finnish side Åland United, winning the tournament has been the aim since the players first got together as a squad in January.
"Expectations are very high. At the start of the year, we already set ourselves the target of winning the Baltic Cup," said Aarna.
Despite winning just two games out of ten in their recent World Cup qualifying campaign, Aarna is still confident that the team has a strong chance of success. "I think these games are going to be quite close, because this is our level, these are our opponents. We just have to win them: that's our game," said Aarna.
Head coaches Anastassia Morkovkina and Sirje Roops go into the tournament with a highly motivated squad, which they believe gives them a strong chance of victory.
"Everyone is happy to join up with the team, everyone wants to win," said Morkovkina said.
Goalkeeper Karika Kork is one player who comes into the tournament in good form, having performed well over the last month for top-flight Swedish club IFK Kalmar.
"The level is very high, with no room for error, any mistakes will be punished," said Kork. "After all, this is where the best football in Europe is played, so you can really test yourself. All of these games definitely develop you mentally and physically and show you the level you want to reach," she added.
In last year's Women's Baltic Cup, the Estonian team lost on penalties in the semi-finals to the Faroe Islands, before beating Latvia 4-1 in the bronze medal match.
This time around, their first opponents are defending champions Lithuania, with head coach Morkovkina confident he side can reach the final.
"We will definitely have to defend really well, attack with determination and keep good possession of the ball. If everything is balanced, things will work out fine," said Morkovkina.
The semi-final match of the 2022 Women's Baltic Cup between Estonia and Lithuania kicks off at 7 p.m. at Tartu's Tamme Stadium. At 1 p.m. the same day, Latvia face the Faeroe Islands in the second semi-final at the Linnastaadion in Võru.
The final and bronze medal match will both take place on Sunday October 9.
At 1 p.m., Lithuania play either the Faeroe Islands or Latvia at Võru Linnastaadion, in a match, which depending on Thursday's results will either be the final or third-fourth place play-off.
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, Tartu's Tamme Stadium will host Estonia against either Latvia or the Faeroe Islands in the final game of the tournament, which, again, depending on the results of Thursday's games could be the final, or a battle for third place.
The Women's Baltic Cup has been held annually since 1996, with a one year gap in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Usually, the tournament is contested between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, though this year the Faeroe Islands have been invited to participate as a guest nation for the third time, having also competed in 2016 and 2021.
Estonia are the most successful side in the competition's history, having won 10 Baltic Cups, with five victories each for Latvia and Lithuania.
Tickets for this year's tournament include entry to all four games, two in Tartu and two in Võru, and are available here.
Editor: Michael Cole