Thursday 20 September 2018

Latvians arrive 'at a difficult time'

Latvia manager Marian Pahars. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Latvia manager Marian Pahars. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

AMID all the fuss about Ireland's 'debut' under Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane tonight, it's been largely forgotten that there is an opponent involved, as Latvia arrived in Dublin last night.

It's not quite a case of sacrificial lambs, as the Latvians – now managed by former Southampton star Marians Pahars – are a decent enough side and have qualified for as many European Championship finals as Ireland in the last while (they competed in 2004).

But new boss Pahars admits it may be bad timing for his side to come to Dublin as the home crowd prepares to venerate the new management team.

"Maybe we came at a difficult time . The Irish players will be excited and will want to prove themselves to the new management," says Pahars.

"So it will be difficult, but we have to go and play football and not be afraid."

Pahars admits he's excited by the form in the Premier League this season of Southampton, a club where he lined out between 1999 and 2006, scoring an impressive 14 league goals in one season.

But the 37-year-old, who only took over as Latvia senior team boss in the summer after a spell with their U21s, admits that there is more quality on offer to his counterpart tonight.

"Ireland have good players who all play at a high level every week, and we don't have that," he says.

"Our players mainly play in our domestic league and it's not as strong as the Premiership or Championship. Our players need to have big games every week to be able to compete .

"O'Neill can pick 27, 30 players and see who is better at that moment but we don't have that, we have 22-23 maximum. But they do have enthusiasm, and I think they will enjoy this game."

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