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Match Previews

PREVIEW: LATVIA

18 November 2013

Yeovil Town welcome a slightly unusual opponent to Huish Park tonight when the Latvian national side are the visitors in a friendly match. 

The Glovers and the Latvians might not seem like the most obvious combination but their connection goes way back to 1999.

Yeovil manager Gary Johnson was invited over to Latvia on a scouting mission but ended up taking over the national side in their quest for World Cup and Euro Championship qualification. 

Johnson was the man behind a number of high profile arrivals to England from his Latvian adventure. Arsenal took Igor Stepanovs, Fulham signed Andrejs Stolcers and Southampton snapped up Marian Parhars.

Parhars is now in charge of the Latvian national outfit, but Saints fans will put the front man down in their history books as the man who helped keep them in the Premier League at the turn of the millennium.

Stolcers was not only a big hit in Fulham's colours, but also in the green and white of Yeovil Town, the tricky attacker linked back up with Johnson at Huish Park after his time at the Cottage had come to and end. 

Johnson would leave Latvia after a 1-1 draw with San Marino in 2001 where he would take over a plucky non-league side and go on to do alright for himself. 

Following Johnson's departure, Latvia would go on to qualify for the 2004 Euro Championships in Portugal. Johnson would join up with the nation again as a consultant for the tournament. 

The current crop of Latvians are in this part of Europe following a friendly match with the Republic of Ireland last Friday, the Irish won that game 3-0.

Latvia are currently ranked 117th in the FIFA list, sandwiched in between Tajikistan and Kenya.

During the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup, the Eastern Europeans finished in 5th place in their group and secured wins over both Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

There are currently two English-based players in the side, both at Championship level.

The national captain is Reading's Kaspars Gorkss and at left back Brighton's Vitalijs Maksimenko who is relatively new to the set up and has just 9 caps.

If that second name rings some bells with Yeovil fans then you'd be spot on. Maksimenko was on loan at Huish Park at the end of last season.

He made his only start in the final league fixture against Bury, but made substitute appearances on two other occasions including a 15 minute cameo at Wembley in the play off final.

As for the hosts, the Glovers will be missing a couple of players as Shane Duffy is on international duty with the Irish Under 21 squad and Wayne Hennessey has seen his loan deal expire but he also would have been with the Welsh national side.

The other returning man will be Fraser Fyvie, the Wigan loanee played in a behind closed doors game against Cardiff earlier this week and this game will be another chance to get some minutes under his belt ahead of his return to competitive action. 

Other that that expect to see the whole Yeovil squad in attendance as this represents the chance to test themselves against a tough national outfit.

Tickets for the game have started to sell well and at the bargain price of £5 for adults and £2 for anyone under 16, there is great value to be had for anyone wanting to see their local Championship side take on the best an entire nation has to offer.

If you are coming down to Huish Park this Monday evening please note the game will kick off at 7:30pm, 15 minutes earlier than the normal evening kick off time. 

For any local Latvians thinking of making a trip to Huish Park, " Laipni lūgti Yeovil!" (Welcome to Yeovil!)

Famous Latvians

In sport, NBA star Andris Biedrins plays for the Utah Jazz, while Helmut Balderins and Artus Irbe have both played in the NHL in America.

Their most successful Olympian is Maris Strombergs who has won back to back gold medals in 2008 and 2012 in the BMX cycling,

Tennis star Ernests Gulbuis is currently ranked 24th in the world and has been a French Open quarter finalist in 2008.

Chess is a widely played sport in Latvia and Mikhail Tal was regarded as one of the greatest players ever, currently their highest ranked player is Alexei Shirov who sits in 54th in the world, but has been as high as 4th.

In show business, Latvia can boast a number of catwalk models, but actress Ksenia Solo has broken into Hollywood with a part in the blockbuster movie 'Black Swan' on her CV.

One man who even has an Oscar nomination to his name is famed ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

In pop culture, Limp Bizkit had Latvian born DJ Leathal in their ranks.


Latvia facts.

The capital of Latvia is Riga, a city described as both the "Paris of the North" and the "Second city that never sleeps". 

Latvia has a population of an estimated 2.3million, to put that into perspective, that's about 4.5x the population of Somerset.

Latvian males have an average life expectancy of 68 years, females average 10 years more than that!

Latvians have their own currency, the 'Latvian Lat'. one Lat will get you around £1.19 in the current exchange rate.

It's thought that the language of Latvia and it's flag are some of the oldest in existence, and the shade of red on the flag has been named as "Latvian red".

The match against Yeovil takes place on the Latvian National Holiday of November 18th, as this dates celebrates the country's independence. 

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