Football team kicks off at home in Euro championships

Latvia's national football team launches its bid for European championship glory Friday night with its first home match in the qualifying tournament for the 2016 finals in France.

Iceland are the visitors to the Skonto stadium in Riga, meaning the hosts will have to play extremely well to launch their campaign with a win, after the Icelanders narrowly missed out on World Cup qualification and claimed a big scalp in their first game with a 3-0 victory over Turkey in Reykjavik.

Latvia got their own campaign off to a decent start too, securing a vital away point with a 0-0 draw against Kazakhstan.

Football pundit Graham Williams of pan-Baltic football magazine One Nil Up told LSM Latvia faced a big challenge.

"It's going to be a tough game for Latvia. They have a few key injuries and some players who've had problems with their clubs which has reflected on their performances at international level.

"That said, things have improved since Marian Pahars took over as manager. He's certainly provided a far more professional approach to the build-up and he's giving a lot of opportunities to youngsters. Most notably he's called up 19-year-old Janis Ikaunieks from Liepaja who's the leading goalscorer in the domestic league."

"Iceland are one of Europe's quickest developing nations in terms of football. They don't have big stars but nearly all their players play overseas and they work very well as a unit 

"Much as I'd love Latvia to get a win, I would expect Iceland to win by about two goals to nil. They are in a very open group but if Latvia can't manage a result tonight it will make qualification for Euro 2016 an uphill struggle."

The other teams in the group are the Czech Republic and favorites and World Cup finalists the Netherlands.

Kick-off for Latvia versus Iceland is a late one at 21:15 local time (18:15 GMT) and will be shown live on LTV7.

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