Estonia and Scotland were drawn in group 4 along with Austria, Belarus, Latvia and Sweden. Both nations failed to get their campaign off to a winning start in August, Estonia losing 1–0 away to Belarus and Scotland drawing 0–0 away to Austria. On 5 October however, both won their games to leave just one point between the teams heading into the Tallinn meeting.
Scotland trained at the Kadrioru stadium the night before the game, where they found the temporary floodlighting the game was to be played under inadequate and protested to FIFA. After a meeting of the FIFA executive committee the following morning, the scheduled 1845 EET kickoff time was brought forward to 1500 EET. The Estonian FA were unhappy with the logistical consequences of the switch, such as the potential loss of television revenue. The Estonian team refused to change their plans while Scotland prepared for the revised time. Team manager Craig Brown later said he had it in mind that the likeliest occurrence was for the Estonian team to show up late, to protest the decision, but for the game to go ahead anyway.
Referee Miroslav Radoman led the Scots out onto the pitch, with Scotland's Tartan Army supporters taking the unusual situation in good humour with the chant "One team in Tallinn, There's only one team in Tallinn". Billy Dodds kicked the game off and captain John Collins took one touch of the ball before Radoman blew the whistle and abandoned the game.
The Estonian team arrived at the stadium later in the afternoon, preparing for the original kick-off time.
Scotland initially believed that they would be awarded the match by a default score of 3–0, which appeared to be confirmed by the FIFA match delegate. FIFA regulations stated this should be the case "except in cases of force majeure recognised by the organising committee". A similar situation had occurred in the Soviet Union vs Chile 1974 FIFA World Cup play-off, where the Soviets refused to play in the venue chosen by the Chileans for the match to be played in Chile. In that case Chile were awarded the tie by default and qualified for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. This view was contradicted by Lennart Johansson, who was president of UEFA and a vice-president of FIFA.
The FIFA executive committee, chaired by Johansson, met in November. Instead of awarding the match to Scotland, FIFA ordered that the match should be replayed on a neutral ground. This decision was criticised by Scottish observers who believed that Johansson wanted to give Sweden, his native country, the best possible chance of qualification. It also meant that Scotland captain Gary McAllister, who had been suspended for the original fixture against Estonia, was instead suspended for a match against Sweden.
The match was replayed on 11 February 1997 at the Stade Louis II in Monaco and ended in a 0–0 draw. Despite this setback, Scotland finished second in Group 4, two points ahead of Sweden. Their total of 23 points meant that Scotland were the highest-placed runner-up in the European qualifying groups and therefore qualified directly for the World Cup finals. Estonia finished fifth in Group 4 and did not qualify.