Estonia ecstatic with EURO 2012 feat

Estonia are ecstatic after taking a step closer to an unprecedented UEFA EURO 2012 berth as qualification rivals Serbia stumbled.

"Super! Unbelievable! Historic!" headlined Eesti Paevaleht, after the Baltic nation won a slot in the EURO 2012 play-offs due to Serbia's 1-0 defeat by Slovenia.

Coach Tarmo Ruutli's men have now ventured further in a major international competition than any other team from the nation of 1.3million.

For such a small nation like Estonia to reach the play-offs is something very special.
Mihkel Uiboleht, Estonian FA spokesman

"For such a small nation like Estonia to reach the play-offs is something very special," Estonian Football Association spokesman Mihkel Uiboleht told AFP.

After last Friday's come-from-behind 2-1 result away to Northern Ireland, Estonia overtook Serbia to move into second spot in Group C behind already-qualified Italy.

But with the Serbs having a game in hand, it was a nervous wait for Estonia. They took to home turf in Tallinn last night for a friendly with Ukraine, co-hosts of EURO 2012 along with Poland.

Late rally sealed spot
That game ended 2-0 in the visitors' favour, but with the final whistle only minutes before kick-off in Slovenia, home players and fans stayed on to watch their rivals' match on a big screen.

"We were so nervous all the time," said Uiboleht. "Everybody was struggling to fight back tears because it was a very historic moment."

After June's shock 2-0 away loss to the Faroe Islands - the weakest team in the group - Estonia looked to have blown their chances.

"The men mobilised themselves very strongly after that," ex-international turned Estonia goalkeeping coach Mart Poom told Postimees.

They turned the tables by winning their final three group matches, with two of the victories away, including the wrap-up game against Northern Ireland.

Rise up the rankings
The draw for next month's play-offs takes place tomorrow in the Polish city of Krakow. Besides Estonia, the other nations in the pot are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Portugal, Republic of Ireland and Turkey.

"Obviously we have no pressure going into the play-offs. Our whole qualification process has been a success no matter what happens in November," said Uiboleht.

After lying as low as 137th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in 2008, Estonia currently stand at an all-time high of 58, and were classed as the biggest mover of September 2011 as they jumped 28 places.