Where'd they go, where'd they go…

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One kick in the Baltics and it was all over. Yes, Scotland coasted hopefully to victory against a weakened Estonia team yesterday in probably the shortest international football match ever played.

Scenes of joy on the terraces, with the Tartan Army singing "There's only one team in Tallinn", greeted the national team's performance, in which not one player put a foot wrong. Indeed several never put a foot anywhere. No one even put the ball in the net - not a Scottish strong point in any case.

Admittedly, the World Cup qualifying match lacked thrills and spills. No extra time. No penalty shoot-out. It was not even a game of two halves. Barely even a game in fact, for it was abandoned after one pass of the ball, a magnificent movement by Scotland which saw them surging two yards up the park.

Estonia's weakness was essentially its lack of players of any substance. For, in a fundamentally flawed tactical move, they decided not to turn up. This was in protest over the decision to move the match from an evening to an afternoon kick-off, interfering with the arrangements - and, naturally, the fee - they had agreed for live television transmission.

The alteration had been ordered by FIFA because the emergency floodlighting system inside the Kadriorg Stadium had been deemed hopelessly inadequate.

After the ghost game, Craig Brown, Scotland's manager, said: "I am very upset. The players were psyched up for the match and there is a dreadful feeling of anti-climax.

"I am very surprised at the way in which Estonia have behaved. I was 99 per cent sure that they would make a belated appearance and suffer a fine from FIFA to draw attention to their protest. I can't believe what has happened." The manager now has an anxious wait until 7 November when football's governing body, FIFA, will decided whether to award three points for a victory to Scotland.

Reports by the referee and FIFA's delegate at the match will be presented to FIFA on 20 October but a decision might not be taken till the organising committee meets on 7 November.

A FIFA spokesman, Keith Cooper, hinted that Scotland would be awarded the match, by drawing attention to article six, paragraph eight, of the governing body's regulations. "It says that if one team does not report for a match, it shall be considered as having lost and the three points shall be awarded to their opponents with a score of 3-0," he said.

Mr Brown had made known his reservations about the floodlighting to Miroslav Radoman, the Yugoslavian referee, and to Jean-Marie Gantenbein, the FIFA delegate from Luxembourg overseeing the tie. "I did not protest or threaten to withdraw from the match. I offered the Estonians the opportunity to put in even more emergency foodlights," he said.

"It was FIFA's decision to change the kick-off time. My suspicion, based on my earlier dealings with the Estonian FA, is that someone, either their manager or the players' spokesman, has acted in defiance of his national association."

More than 600 Scotland supporters left the stadium in good humour after a message from Marjory Nimmo, the SFA official in charge of Scotland's Travel Club, was broadcast over the loudspeaker system thanking them for their backing. The supporters had been with the team in Latvia, where Scotland won a World Cup qualifying tie on Saturday, before moving on to Tallinn, the Estonian capital. They are now seriously out of pocket but their behaviour was exemplary.

International caps will be awarded to Scotland's players and they will get to keep their jerseys as mementoes.

• From The Scotsman of 10/10/96

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