Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Peter Morrison/AP/Press Association Images Konstantin Vassiljev celebrates his goal in Windsor Park.
# Scouting Report
Blue magic: 5 Estonian goals (and what we can learn from them)
We borrowed Trap’s DVDs and looked back at Estonia’s route to the play-offs. Here are some of the lessons we learned.

THERE HAVE BEEN more ups than downs on Estonia’s road to next summer’s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Leaving aside the calamitous defeat in the Faroe Islands (and the near miss in Tallinn), Estonia outperformed expectations in a rather tricky Group C, taking a few major scalps along the way.

They managed 15 goals in their 10 games — the same amount as Ireland, coincidentally. Here, we look back at five to see what we can learn about Tarmo Rüütli’s men.

1. Tarmo Kink (Serbia 1-3 Estonia)

Given a little bit of room, Middlesbrough winger Tarmo Kink is a dangerous prospect.

Although he sometimes plays as a second striker, Tarmo Rüütli usually deploys Kink out wide where he is at his most effective. From there, he is able to link up with his full back to launch attacks and will run at defenders given a sniff of an opportunity.

He may have gotten a lucky break in the build-up to this goal against Serbia, but there was nothing fortuitous about his thunderous finish from 25 yards out.

Kink’s goal in the 4-1 pasting of Northern Ireland also came courtesy of a similarly aggressive run from midfield, though he did have Lee Camp to thank for some woeful goalkeeping.

Moral of the story? Close him down.

(Skip to 01:20)

2. Konstantin Vassiljev (Northern Ireland 1-2 Estonia)

Konstantin Vassiljev is another midfielder with licence to roam and he often puts it to devastating use.

Like that pretty girl from college, the 27-year-old is usually late to the party, preferring to hang back behind the play before timing his run from deep when the moment is right.

Vassiljev popped up on the edge of the box to score away to Serbia, but his winner in Belfast was brilliant, patiently waiting in the pocket before unleashing a piledriver.

3. Sergei Zenjov (Estonia 4-1 Northern Ireland)

Just in case you get the impression that all of Estonia’s goals are lucky long-rangers, they’re not — although they do score plenty from outside the box.

Midfielder Martin Vunk can provide a creative spark and if defenders press up on him to clog the middle third of the pitch, he has no problem exploiting the space in behind them.

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With Craig Cathcart and Aaron Hughes on the back foot, his perfectly clipped ball found Sander Puri operating in the space between the two. Puri got the official assist for Zenjov’s opportunistic finish, but it was Vunk’s eye for the pass which opened up the defence.

(Skip to 07:10)

4 & 5. Kaimar Saag and Raio Piiroja (Estonia 2-1 Faroe Islands)

Coach Tarmo Rüütli tries to stay away from route one hoofball if he can avoid, but sometimes it’s necessary — like if you’re losing 1-0 at home to the Faroes with a little over a minute to play.

At six foot three, it’s easy to see why veteran centre-half Raio Piiroja is the go-to guy in these situations. He’s like an Estonian version of Gary Doherty, only better.

The Vitesse Arnhem man was at the heart of both of Estonia’s late goals, winning the all-important flick-on for the equaliser and then somehow managing to head past Man City netminder Gunnar Nielsen from all of 18 yards out.

Piroja has eight international goals, putting him joint 12th on the country’s all-time list of goalscorers. Watch out for him if the Estonians get desperate.

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