Estonia's sights on UEFA record
Estonia are aiming to set up a match with France to cap their drive to become the first ever team to have played all 52 fellow European footballing nations.
"The Estonian national team is seeking a game with France in order to set a unique record by becoming the first to play all the other members of UEFA," Estonian Football Association spokesman Mihkel Uiboleht told AFP. "Together with Estonia, UEFA has a total of 53 member nations and we have already played the other 51," he said.
France became the final missing card from Estonia's pack after the Baltic team found themselves facing their only other remaining opponents, Serbia, in the qualifying campaign for UEFA EURO 2012. Notching up 51 different opponents is particularly impressive given that Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million, only returned to international football in 1992 after the end of five decades of Soviet rule.
"While national teams usually play eight to 11 games a year, we have tried to play more just to gain experience," Uiboleht explained.
Estonia are currently ranked 82nd in the world, having climbed from the all-time low of 137th, which they hit in 2008. Their top ranking was 60th, in 2002. The 51 opponents include Germany, whom Estonia have not played since the 1930s, during a two-decade period of independence from Russia which was snuffed out during World War II.
Uiboleht said Estonia would be happy to play France at home or away, but acknowledged that setting up a friendly could be a pipe dream. "The teams of big nations always prefer to play friendlies with bigger teams, because it's understandable that a game with Germany, for example, would attract much more interest than a game with a much smaller side. But we hope a lot that the French team will respond positively," he said.
Even if Estonia fail to agree on a friendly with France, they are still crossing their fingers that they can set the record by ending up in the same group as Les Bleus when the draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers takes place in July. The closest runners up in the race to play all 52 fellow UEFA members are Poland and Germany, who are only missing three nations each to complete the set.