This article appeared on 'RdS' on the 25th of January when UEFA communicated the pots composition.
The Pehrsson era will officially debut on the 5th of March when Estonia will take on, for the first time ever, the new UEFA member, Gibraltar.
However, ten days before the first fixture for Eesti Koondis in 2014, the Estonian ‘sinisärgid’ will already know which will be their opponents for the upcoming EuroCup 2016 campaign kicking off in fall.
For sure, Estonia already know who they won’t clash with: Montenegro, Armenia, Scotland, neighbouring Finland and Latvia, Wales, Bulgaria and Belarus have been placed in the same pot (4).
Their March opponents (first participation ever to a UEFA competition) have been placed in the 6th and last pot, together with other minnows as Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Malta, Andorra and, obviously, San Marino.
The draw on the 23rd of February might give Estonia and Gibraltar another double clash, as the newcomers will visit Tallinn already in May.
However, the biggest headaches shall come from the above pots.
Let’s see the possible scenarios going from the dream one to a complete nightmare group.
Pot of death
There is no way to change it: pot 1 is pot 1.
Spain, Germany, Holland, Italy, England and Portugal all sound like a big mountain to climb.
Obviously do not tell that to Van Gaal, who had to acknowledge Estonian better game in October (2-2) and thank Ukrainian ref Boiko for a generous penalty on Van Persie.
Coming to Tallinn has always been quite easy for all of them: a negative balance of 0 wins, 2 draws and 10 losses (*) against the 6 superpowers of pot 1 would suggest that there will not be much hope to earn points in A.LeCoq against them, let alone away.
Many fans are longing to get Germany as the last game in Tallinn against the 3-time world champions dates back to 1939.
However, Greece shall be the best pick from the noblest pot.
Estonia have played twice with the Hellenics, both times in Greece (4-2 and 2-2 the balance). In Tallinn it would be a first time ever.
A derby with Fabio Capello’s Russia, though intriguing, should be avoided for other several reasons we can easily figure out.
Bosnia-Hercegovina brings back only bad memories: a 7-0 loss in Bosnia in 2008, 9-0 aggregate with the return in A.LeCoq.
Pot 2: Zlatan or the ‘Red Devils’
The last time a Swedish national team came to Tallinn, it was 1997 and Eesti Koondis still played in Kadriorg.
Marko Kristal scored a wonderful goal, but Thordasson side lost 2-3 to Kennet Andersson & Co.
When asked about how to mark Zlatan, Pehrsson said quite reasonably that he will think about if it will happen. Fans would just love to see another top-notch footballer in the tiny A.LeCoq Arena stretched to host 10,000 people on the finest evenings.
If no Zlatan will come from pot 2, a good show might be given by the talented Belgium, an expected surprise package for Brazil 2014.
It was in 2009 the last rendez-vous in Tallinn with the ‘Red Devlis, a 2-0 win for the ‘blues’ with goals scored by Piiroja and Vassilijev. Even though the precedent is quite comforting, it might be a hard bite for Estonia.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
After the execution of the Estonian hopes on the 11.11.11, Estonians would prepare a warm ‘welcome back to Tallinn’ for the Irish national team. Quite unlikely the referee will still be Kassai, however most of the protagonists of that squad shall be there to taste revenge against Ireland.
Switzerland, Croatia, Ukraine, Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic (in order of strength according to this columnist) might represent a higher level of difficulty.
Pot 3: hot stuff around
The Lewandosky’s Poland, the emerging Austria, the arduous Romania, the complicate trip to Israel, the tough Turkey and Serbia seeking for their own revenge, they all might represent quite a danger.
A dream group would feature either Norway, Slovakia or Slovenia with the latter being our first choice.
Last pots, whoever but Iceland
If we could really choose a country not to pick among the 17 forming pot 5 and 6, we would preferably avoid Iceland.
They managed to make it to the play-offs for the Brazil World Cup losing to Croatia and they are certainly the loose cannon of the lot.
Easiest logistical trip would be to Lithuania for pot 5 as most of the countries in the same pot and in pot 6 represent a challenge under that point of view.
San Marino should be the easiest option for pot 6 whereas Azerbaijan might be a better option for pot 5 in order to avoid a hot derby with Lithuania.
Dream group: Greece, Ireland, Slovenia, Estonia, Azerbaijan, San Marino
Nightmare group: Spain, Belgium, Romania, Estonia, Iceland, Kazakhstan
What about France?
The hosts were announced to take part into the qualifiers (first ever) however, the games against them will be counted only as friendlies amd points will not be awarded. It is a new rule by UEFA introduced for the future qualifying campaigns. France will be added to the group of five coming out of the pot.
The only game ever played against ‘Les Bleus’ (4-0 in France, 2012) shall not represent a problem as it will be just a pleasure trip.
(*) Spain won (3-0 in 2008). Germany did before WWII (friendly, 2-0 in June 1939 few months before the war broke). Holland risked twice but always managed to leave Tallinn unbeaten (the historical 4-2 win in the new A.LeCoq Arena and the last 2-2). Italy visited Tallinn three times with winning scores (1993, 1994 and 2010); England won 3-0 in 2007; Portugal came last time for a goalless draw in 2009 but won back in 1993, 2000 and 2005.