Estonia coach wary of Trapattoni
Estonia boss Tarmo Ruutli is wary of "old fox" Giovanni Trapattoni as he prepares for the biggest match in his nation’s history.
Ruutli will send his side into the first leg of their Euro 2012 play-off battle with the Republic at the A Le Coq Arena in Tallinn on Friday night knowing they could be just 180 minutes away from their first major tournament.
However, he is expecting seasoned campaigner Trapattoni to bring every element of his vast experience to bear as the Italian attempts to end Ireland’s 10-year exile from the big stage.
He said: "He is, of course, very experienced and I would not be too surprised if he finds some extra steps for tomorrow.
"We can say that he is an old fox."
While many of Ireland’s players are household names in Estonia because they play in the Barclays Premier League, the reverse is not true with Middlesbrough’s Tarmo Kink perhaps the only familiar name in Ruutli’s squad.
The manager admitted: "Sometimes if look at the videos, I dream that it is my team. They have quality players, the team is very good. We will play against a very good team."
Trapattoni and his players have spent much of this week insisting they cannot be regarded as favourites to make it to Poland and the Ukraine despite their happiness with the draw which pitched them into battle with the Estonians.
Similarly, Ruutli is adamant his team will not be satisfied to play the role of underdogs.
He said: "In this game, I think if you ask simply what chances we have, our chances are 50-50 in this moment.
"We have tasted success already, so we know what it means. We are playing at home, and the chances are 50-50."
Asked what would represent a good result, he replied with a smile: "Win at home and draw away."
Estonia, who have met Ireland twice in the past and lost 2-0 on both occasions, edged past Serbia and Slovenia as well as Northern Ireland to clinch the runners-up spot in Group C behind Italy and announce their arrival as genuine contenders for qualification.
Ruutli has experience at his disposal in the shape of skipper Raio Piiroja, who recently passed the 100-cap mark, but there is also the intriguing possibility of a return, most probably from the bench, for New York Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere.
Lindpere, a team-mate of Ireland’s nemesis Thierry Henry and an MLS opponent of skipper Robbie Keane, has ended his self-imposed exile from the national team to make himself available for the first time since last summer.
Estonia, which only achieved independence form the Soviet Union in 1991, has never yet enjoyed the thrill of sending a team to the finals of a major tournament, and asked what doing that would mean to the nation, Ruutli was unsure.
He said: "It’s hard to say. It’s the first time for us, we have no experience."
Reaching the play-offs is an achievement in itself, and the manager has put that success down to a combination of hard work and good fortune.
Asked what had made the difference, he said: "Hard work, and the period has been on quite long. We have suddenly reached the top.
"In this group, it was not easy. You have maybe some luck that you need for success and that’s it. We got it.
"More than 10 years, we have been working hard and a lot of players have been playing abroad and so on."
Midfielder Martin Vunk added: "We have grown stronger every game, so we get more confidence from game to game with these results, we feel better with every game."