Estonian boss Tarmo Ruutli isn’t having nightmares about European Championship opponents Ireland – instead he dreams of managing them!
Ruutli leads the Blueshirts into their first ever play-off at the Le Coq Arena on Friday night after a week studying the Irish players and dreaming about them.
“Sometimes when I look at the videos of Ireland this week, I dream that this is my team, that I can lead them,” said Ruutli.
“They have quality players, the team is very good. I can’t say I was satisfied when we drew them. We will play against a very strong Ireland team with an experienced manager so we are the outsiders for this game.
“In this match, if you ask simply what chance we have, then I will tell you that our chances are 50-50 at the moment. We have tasted success already in this competition so we know what it means.
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“And because we play at home on Friday night, our chance for this game is 50-50. A good result for us would be to win 2-0 at home and draw away but this is new for us. It is the first time for us and we have no experience of this.”
Giovanni Trapattoni, yet to talk to the FAI about a new deal, won’t face competition from an admiring Ruutli in his bid to hang onto his job however.
The Estonian FA has already signed a long term contract extension with their manager, reward for guiding his national team to unheralded heights.
“Trapattoni is of course a great manager, very experienced,” added Ruutli. “We can say that he is an old fox and I will not be too surprised if he finds some extra steps for tomorrow.”
While he has to decide on his team for the sell-out clash in Tallinn, Ruutli has confirmed that he will use New York Red Bulls striker Joel Lindpere from the bench after his return from a two-year self-imposed exile.
“We have a new name for him since he returned, we are calling him the Joker now,” revealed Ruutli who will look to Latvia for inspiration.
“Latvia’s success in getting to Portugal in 2004 via the play-offs is one of the things we have been thinking about. They reached the European finals why not Estonia?” asked Ruutli.
“This has been an ongoing job. We have not suddenly reached the top. For more than 10 years now, we have been working hard in Estonian football.
“Our players have started to move abroad and play in better teams and better leagues and it making a difference. We saw that in the qualifiers when we had some luck as well as some success. We have worked for this.”
Estonia is a nation gripped with excitement ahead of this game. There is also a sense of expectation around the place after two wins over Northern Ireland in the spring as they reached the play-offs for the first time.
Midfielder Martin Vunk explained: “The big difference for us now is experience. We have played together for some years now and we have grown stronger with every game. We are gaining confidence from our results and we feel better with every game.
“We can win now against big teams away from home as well as here in Tallinn. We know Ireland are a good team in defence, well organised and with strikers and wingers who are dangerous. But this is an okay draw for us.”
Estonia (Probable): Pareiko; Jaager, Rahn, Piroja, Klavan; Kink, Vunk, Dimitriyev, Kruglov, Vasilyev; Ahjupera.