Latvia’s maiden FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign was in 1992, but they have never made it to the tournament proper. The closest they have come was prior to the South Africa 2010 finals, when coach Aleksandrs Starkovs’ side went into the last round of qualifying matches with a chance of booking their ticket to the tournament, only to finish third in their group behind Switzerland and Greece. Four years later, however, Latvia were unable to make an impact on their group ahead of Brazil 2014.
Results in recent years point towards a steady improvement in Latvian football, and in 2004 the team qualified for the UEFA European Championship, marking the first time they had ever reached the finals of a major tournament. Latvia’s key players are goalkeeper Andris Vaņins, defender Kaspars Dubra and striker Deniss Rakels.
As a player Marians Pahars laced his boots for Skonto, Daugava Riga and Southampton, among others, making 137 Premier League appearances for the latter. He earned 75 caps for Latvia between 1996 and 2007 and has been national team coach since July 2013.
3 – Pahars was voted Latvia’s Player of the Year three times between 1999 and 2001, a feat no other player has achieved.
The former stars
Vitalijs Astafjevs, Aleksandrs Kolinko, Maris Verpakovskis, Marian Pahars