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from Left field:

Both teams got the Euro 2012 playoff draw they wanted

By Philip O’Connor in Stockholm

It wasn’t just Irish eyes that were smiling when the Euro 2012 playoff draw was made in Polish city of Krakow - some of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) delegation appeared to be laughing out loud when they were drawn to face Estonia, with the winner heading to next year’s finals.

But despite the protestations of coach Tarmo Ruutli, Ireland probably represents the best possible draw for the Estonians, given that the other alternatives were Portugal, Croatia or the Czech Republic.

“I don't think the Republic of Ireland were the easiest of our potential opponents,” Ruutli said in a statement after the draw. “All the teams at this stage are strong and they proved it during the group stage. However, I won't deny the fact that we wanted to face Ireland more than the others.”

Former Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham didn’t mince his words, telling RTE TV that “everyone would have been leaning towards Estonia. They are the weakest of the teams we could have faced.”

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Time for international minnows to swim in their own pond?

SOCCER-EURO/Most sports fans love an underdog but I suspect many people watching Liechtenstein's approach against Scotland on Tuesday will have been relieved for the Scots when Stephen McManus popped up to head his side's winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

In soccer, for a minor team to hold or even beat one of the big boys, there is usually some spoiling involved and there's nothing wrong with that. However, there is a difference between robust tackling and honest battling and some of the things on show at Hampden Park on Tuesday -- and all too often before.

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