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15 July 2024

Estonia to set European record with France match


Minnows Estonia are set to make history as the first ever team to have played all 52 fellow European footballing nations, after inking in a friendly against the final piece in the puzzle, France.

"France is traditionally one of Europe's top teams and currently on the rise again," Estonian Football Association chief Aivar Pohlak said after the challenging June 5 meeting was announced.

"But if we look at the match purely from the Estonian football perspective then for us it is an important fact that we will be the first European football team to have played an official match with every other UEFA member," he added.

Estonia have been pushing for a game against les Bleus for over a year.

France became the only card missing from their pack after Estonia played their only other remaining opponents, Serbia, in the qualifying race for Euro 2012.

Unheralded Estonia were one of the surprises of the battle for a berth in this June's European championship in Poland and Ukraine, clinching a playoff slot.

Despite a stinging defeat by playoff rivals Ireland, they revelled in getting further in international competition than any previous Estonia side.

Notching up so many 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.

The full set of 52 nations, however, includes the likes of Germany, who Estonia have not played since a two-decade period of independence from Russia which ended during World War II.

Estonia are currently ranked 52nd in the world, marking an all-time high for the Blueshirts, whose low point was 137th in October 2008.

June's friendly in the western French city of Le Mans will cap France's warm-up run to Euro 2012, which also includes games with Germany later this month, then Iceland and Serbia in May.

Estonia, meanwhile, are eyeing their campaign to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which kicks off at home to Romania in September.