Hodgson wary of Estonia threat

Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Roy Hodgson thinks Spain’s shock defeat to Slovakia proves England should not take their encounter with Estonia lightly on Sunday.

After beating Switzerland and San Marino, England are big favourites to make it three wins from three qualifying matches when they take on Estonia in Tallinn this weekend.

The Baltic nation are ranked 81st in the world – below Antigua and Barbuda – and have never qualified for a major international tournament.

But Hodgson thinks the old adage that there are no easy games in international football – other than perhaps against San Marino – has been proven recently.

Spain lost 2-1 away to Slovakia this week while in the last round of matches Albania defeated Portugal.

“The players are aware of those results,” the England manager said.

“These results are happening more and more.

“Maybe 20 or 30 years ago a game between an England and an Estonia or Luxembourg would be an easy game.

“But we all realise now it will only be an easy game if you play well enough to make it an easy game.

“And we won’t be taking this one lightly.”

Hodgson, who has brought a full squad of 21 players to Tallinn, watched his team take 24 minutes to score against part-timers San Marino on Thursday.

This time he is looking for his players to ease the pressure on themselves by striking early at the A. Le Coq Arena, where 10,000 fans are expected to turn up on Sunday afternoon.

Hodgson said: “We want to hit the opposition’s defence early on and then build on their necessity to attack you.

“Sometimes I feel that we put ourselves under too much pressure and it’s a question for me of sometimes trying to relieve the pressure and free players rather than put them under more pressure.”

Few are expecting the Three Lions to fall short at the A. Le Coq Arena, especially as Estonia go into the game on the back of a 1-0 defeat in Lithuania.

And Estonia head coach Magnus Pehrsson is realistic about his side’s chances against a new-look England side.

“The World Cup was not what Englishmen expected or hoped for, but they are at the start of something new,” the Swede said.

“They have young players who play key roles. The difference is that it’s a team with more pace now and that is what we really have to look out for.

“They are really good in positive transitions. In general, England will most probably will have more of possession so we need to stop them from creating chances, really.

“There could be different ways of doing that, but even if we have to take them higher or lower we have to be a really compact unit and we have to play a perfect performance. Then, of course, there is a chance.”

Pehrsson deals with the press in English having yet to master Estonian, so the presence of goalkeeping coach Mart Poom – formerly of Derby, Sunderland, Arsenal and Watford – no doubt helps.

There are no such household names in the current side, although there are British-based players in the form of Blackpool’s Sergei Zenjov and Henrik Ojamaa of Motherwell.

The latter laughed off suggestions he was given special instructions before leaving Scotland for a game he believes Estonia could cause an upset.

“People will say from the outside and say we have no chance,” Ojamaa said.

“But look at the World Cup when the small teams had a lot of success, like Costa Rica and so on.

“The wage or the level they are playing doesn’t count for everything. If we want it more than them on the day, that counts for something as well.”

Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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