Latvia leave Pahars on bench

Latvia striker Marian Pahars lost his fitness battle to start the Group D Euro 2004 match with the Czech Republic at Aveiro’s colourful Estadio Municipal in what is the biggest moment in the Baltic nation’s football history.

Latvia striker Marian Pahars lost his fitness battle to start the Group D Euro 2004 match with the Czech Republic at Aveiro’s colourful Estadio Municipal in what is the biggest moment in the Baltic nation’s football history.

Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs left a decision as late as possible on whether to pick the Southampton forward alongside the hero of the qualifying tournament, Maris Verpakovskis, in attack.

However, Pahars was left on the bench for the match with the Czechs with Andrejs Prohorenkovs taking his place in the starting line-up for Latvia.

This is Latvia's first major tournament and they are considered the rank outsiders by most observers.

There were no big surprises in the Czech line-up with Milan Baros named alongside giant striker Jan Koller up front by coach Karel Bruckner, who is eager to start well in a pool considered by many the competition’s “Group of Death” with Holland and Germany also involved.

The midfield – considered by some the most creative in the tournament – was made up of three creative players, Karel Poborsky, Tomas Rosicky and European footballer of the year Pavel Nedved, with Tomas Galasek providing some steel.

In defence – in front of giant goalkeeper Petr Cech – Rene Bolf and Tomas Ujfalusi were paired in the centre with Zdenek Grygera on the right and Marek Jankulovski on the left.

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