Having gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Latvia joined FIFA in 1992. In the same year, they made their first stab at qualifying for a FIFA World Cup™ and although the Latvians failed to win a match, they nonetheless recorded two remarkable draws against heavyweights Spain and Denmark.
Qualification eluded them too for France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002. Latvia fared better in their bid to qualify for UEFA EURO 2004, notching up surprising performances to surpass FIFA World Cup participants Poland and Hungary, and they were also the only team to defeat Sweden.
The Latvians made it into the play-offs and continued to surprise. After a 1-0 home victory over Turkey, they recorded a shock 2-2 draw in Istanbul. The 3-2 aggregate score was enough to send them to the finals in Portugal at the expense of the Korea/Japan 2002 bronze medalists.
The Latvians naturally travelled to Portugal as underdogs and duly failed to emerge from their group after defeats by Czech Republic and Netherlands. However, they earned plaudits for their plucky approach and crowned the long trip south by taking an impressive point off the mighty Germany.
That led inevitably to inflated expectations for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany preliminaries, but the best the Baltic side could manage in 12 games was four wins and three draws and they finished only fifth in the group. Latvia ended up in the same position in their EURO 2008 qualifying section, but they will be eager to make a firm assault on seizing a place in South Africa.