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Building a Nation - 11 Wolves of Latvia


theBlackPrince
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Prologue - Picking the Nation - Latvia

After enjoying reading these build a nation saves on here, decided it was time to find a nation that was in need of saving and try to bring them into the forefront of European football. I decided to put together the Nation Club Coefficients points and the World Ranking to create a score out of 100 to rank the teams in Europe to find potential teams. As you can see, England rank #1 with 100 and at the bottom, San Marino rank #55 with just 1 point. I was mostly interested in the teams with below 15 points (red section) and had a playable league to start the game. This left me with Iceland, Wales, Latvia and Finland. Out of those, I looked at the Fifa points against their world ranking and put the bottom 20% into Black, this just left me with Latvia. I hope to update this every so many years just to see how Latvia and other Nation's perform and if the dynamics can change over the seasons.

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Latvija - 11 Vilki (11 Wolves)

Latvia played their first match in 1922 and played until 1940 when it was annexed by the Soviet Union. They would not play football again as Latvia until 1991, a 51 year gap. There would only be one underdog story as they qualified for Euro 2004 where they would gain a single point in a huge 0-0 draw against the Germans. They would rise to a World Ranking high of 45 in November 2009 but have been on the decline since then and currently sit 138th, 10 places higher than their low of 148 in September 2017. They have never qualified for the World Cup which makes Latvia are a National Team crying out for some success.

Most International Caps - Vitālijs Astafjevs - 167 from 1992 - 2010 

Top International Goalscorer - Māris Verpakovskis - 29 Goals in 104 caps from 1999 - 2014

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The home stadium is more the capacity you would see in England's League One with just 10,461 capacity at the Daugava Stadium in Riga. All National Teams games are played at this Stadium since 2018 and it is home to FS Metta. The first stadium was built in 1927 but was abandoned by Soviet Union during WWII but was re-established in 1945. Before July 1990 the total capacity of the stadium was more than 10,000 people, but after the demolition of the north, east and south stands in 1999 it was reduced to just 5,683. Work started in 2017 after European Regional Development funds were gained, along with the Latvian Government funding a €62 million contract was signed on June 5 for the reconstruction of the stadium and the creation of the Grīziņkalns sports and culture district in its surroundings.

 On 15 May 2018, the first phase of the renovation was completed, in the course of which new stands were built on both goal ends, increasing the capacity of the stadium from 5,683 seats to 10,461 seats, the main western stand with its indoor athletics facilities, conference rooms and VIP facilities were fully renovated and a new electronic scoreboard display was installed. After the renovation the stadium now meets UEFA Category 4 and IAAF Category 2 requirements. The second and final phase – during which the construction of a roof over the west terrace, a new ice rink replacing the one built in 1960 (demolished in 2018) and new, multi-functional sports halls is planned – is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

Latvia Virslīga - Higher League

When Latvia gained independence in 1991, the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) was established and the Virsliga was organised from the 1992 season. Despite it's relativly short history, many of the teams including Skonto FC, who have a record 15 League Titles, have not survived this period. In the start of the 2021 season we shall see just 7 teams line up in the top flight, moving back to 10 teams from 2022. Out of the current teams, Riga FC is the most successful with 3 League Titles and there are just 7 Titles among active teams. This is a Nation and a League that deserves more and is crying out for stability and improvement.

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The Story - The Aims and Expectations

As with all Build a Nation stories, the aim is to bring Latvia onto the lips of those in Europe and try to move them up from #138 in the World. A full list of aims will be produced for the initial ones are to get into the top 100 and qualify for a major tournament once more. The only way to do that, take over a Latvian team and improve them. We need to go further into Europe to get that price money to improve facilities and those youth players coming through. Nothing new, nothing different but that is how we Build a Nation. With just 7 teams to choose from, time to delve into the teams.

Edited by theBlackPrince
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The Manager - Andris Vaņins

To fully learn a country, to get into the save deeply for me, you have to immerse yourself in it. Learn the players, the clubs, the high and the lows. I wanted to pick an International Player as a manager and as a former keeper, I will always pick a Keeper to go with. The obvious choice for me was Andris VaņinsVaņins amassed 100 caps for his country and 485 club appearances in a career that started when he was 17 for FK Ventspils in Latvia. He would move to Russia for FC Moscow but was mainly used in the reserves and with National Team on his mind, had to leave, He returned to Latvia with FK Venta for just 1 appearance before they bankrupt during the season.

A return to FK Ventspils for 3 and a half seasons saw him named best goalkeeper of the season as well as the Latvian Footballer of the Year in 2008. In 2009 he started to look abroad for football  and after a trial with Russian Premier League Club, Rubin Kazan, he would find himself in Switzerland with FC Sion. From 2009 to 2016 he would establish himself as the 1st team keeper with 223 appearances before finishing his career at FC Zurich. In real life, he is a goalkeeping coach back in FC Sion

He made his international debut  2000 in a 3–1 loss against Slovakia. From summer of 2007 he became the first choice keeper In summer 2007, when the first-choice keeper until 10th October 2019 when he played his 100th and final match for Latvia in a 3–0 loss against Poland. Vanins, seemed the ideal player to become the manager of this save.

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The Club - FK Metta 

I think FK Metta was build for me for this challenge. They are predicated to finish bottom of the league, are worth the least amount of money but have a squad full of Latvian players when most of the other squads do not. Then I started to look into them and it was done, Metta was the team to start this save with.

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About the Club 

Officially founded on May 2, 2006, though the club had been active in youth tournaments since 2000. In 2007 FS Metta and the University of Latvia (Latvijas Universitāte) merged as a senior professional team and participated in the Latvian Championship 1st division when they finished 4th. The club remained at the same level for the next four seasons. The club retained the prefix FS (Futbola Skola) since their policy is to invest in youth players. In 2011 Metta won the Latvian First Division, promoted to the the top tier of Latvian football. They have remained there since then, but have never finished higher than 7th place.

The affiliation with the university provides the club with a greater financial backing and the players with the opportunity to study at the most prestigious Latvijas Universitāte. The club was created with the aim to gather the greatest youth talents from across the country and surrounding areas to build and shape them into expensive players for sale to bigger clubs. In 2020 FK Metta were the youngest top-tier team in Europe as at the end of the season, the team's average age was just 19.5. In September 2020, FK Metta forward Raimods Krollis made his debut for the Latvian National Team to become the first-ever player that has gone through the whole FK Metta academy and played for the Senior national team. He would be sold onto FC Valmiera for an unknown fee.

The Perfect Choice

It sounds like a team made for this challenge. A team that is to focus on youth development and giving university education if wanted. A team that is use to selling their players to the bigger teams and a youthful squad age full of Latvian players. A perfect team to build around. Time to delve into pre-season and see what I have to play with for the season.

Edited by theBlackPrince
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Glad that you have been inspired to start a build a nation save, I must admit Latvia, very much like Poland was a league which I knew little about! I think your choice of club fits like a glove, the core being Latvian not only will help with your aims but also give you a real feel for the Latvian style of play. The 'follow' button has been pressed, love to see it! 

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2021 - Pre-Season - Well it all went well here and all we have to do is not finish last...

Let's start with a look at the 7 team league which will be a first for me, least it goes (back) to 10 next season. We are by far the smallest team and the top 3 teams have started to gain money from Europe so will be on the hunt for that again. They are importing many players and although the League Rules, only 3 from the starting 11 have to be trained in Latvia. Maybe that will mean I can pick up some players later on when they are not getting game time? Riga FC, at the start of the game had no manager but Tamaz Pertia from Georgia has taken over to leave just 4 Latvian Managers out of the 7. Riga FC are the largest team and advanced the furthest in Europe last season (real life) with everyone else crashing out at the first hurdle. Can anyone challenge them this season? Valmiera FC have been the most active in the transfer window so may fancy their chances. Each team plays the other 4 times, this could be brutal if the top 3 or 4 are that much better.

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FK Metta - All Latvian Squad 2021

That is us, an all Latvian squad after we sold all players not from Latvia. The only one left is out on loan all season, Yunusa Muritala, which we are paying 400 euros a week for, our highest wage. But, if Riga FC buy him at the end for €70,000 maybe it will be worth it? We were fairly active in the market, mainly securing players on amateur contracts for the "B" side who seemed to have come potential. For no risk, we can bring them along in the B team and see if they develop. If not, well they can last out the season and get some free education.

Pre season friendlies all went well, but I can't judge anything as all but FK Liepaja were low level teams so to concede most games might ring alarm bells. But, it looks like we can score goals so hopefully that bodes well for the season when we are 1000-1 for the title. It looks like we need to try and steal any points we can against FK Spartaks Jūrmala and BFC Daugavpils as the only teams also who have no chance.

So to the first team, with an average age of just 20 we are going to be up against it just on experience alone. The assistant manager has very low scouting ratings so have to take ever rating with a pinch of salt and rely on performances over stars and potential. We do have a half decent scout now so hopefully any future signings will have more accurate information. 19 year old Rihards Ozoliņš and Gļebs Kļuškins seem to be the stars of the show and Kļuškins has 19 caps for the National Team. May have to keep stretching the tight wage budget for these guys if I hope to keep them long term. Really don't know what to expect at this stage with the team and the league, only one way to find out and start the first 2 games, which were always going to go against the the top 2 teams in the League. Hopefully by the middle of April we have our first points and can get a true picture of what we are up against.

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1 hour ago, MattyLewis11 said:

Glad that you have been inspired to start a build a nation save, I must admit Latvia, very much like Poland was a league which I knew little about! I think your choice of club fits like a glove, the core being Latvian not only will help with your aims but also give you a real feel for the Latvian style of play. The 'follow' button has been pressed, love to see it! 

I knew nothing about the Liga, had heard of FC Liga before but that was about it! Yours and danielgear saves were the inspiration but yes, the club ethos was just screaming out to be chosen! Let's see if the young Latvians can get anything this year or are the imports just too good?

1 hour ago, danielgear said:

Good luck mate

Thank you, definitely took some big inspiration from your Estonia save with another Baltic team!

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Latvia National Team - Time to get to Work - World Cup Qualifies Group G

Talk about in at the deep end for Andris Vaņins as it is straight into World Cup Qualifiers. Luckily the first game is against Gibraltar but after that, it is going to be a bumpy ride with 3 teams in the top 50 and Montenegro not far outside that. The aim will be to get 8 points, 6 from Gibraltar and try and get 2 points from forcing a couple of draws elsewhere.

  • Holland -16th
  • Norway - 29th
  • Turkey - 42nd
  • Montenegro - 68th
  • Latvia - 138th
  • Gibraltar - 196th

Selection wise there was no major surprises in the 23 picked for the 3 games. There was Artūrs Zjuzins and Deniss Rakels left out due to injury and there could be 2 players set to win their first cap. With quality lacking, it will be tough slog for a while until we start to get better players developing in the next 5 to 10 years. I have put up our 4-4-2 and 5-4-1 formations, one for games we can try and win and the defensive 5 at the back to frustrate opponents. These will get tweaked as we play some games but that is the starting point for Latvia's tactics.

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Edited by theBlackPrince
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Latvia National Team - World Cup Qualifiers - March 2021

We mustered just 2 shots in each game against Turkey and Holland but that was enough to secure a fantastic result against a highly rated Dutch team. We would go ahead against Turkey also in the 5th minute only for it to be called back. We would go behind twice against Gibraltar but we ended up scoring 3 goals in the second half to secure the big win. We come away after playing a good chunk of players with 4 points which was more than we had hoped to get after 3 games. 

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Half Season Update - Maybe, just maybe we can finish top 4

Maybe they both under estimated us but we certainly shocked all in Latvian Football to start the season as we beat both RFS and FC Riga to open up the season, and those 6 points might be the difference in us finishing 4th or 5th. The difference between Europe or nothing. We would then lose to both of them on the 2nd of the 4 times we play everyone this season. The key to the season was gaining points from the bottom 2 teams, which we did think would be BFC Daugavpils and Spartaks Jūrmala. Managing to secure 9 from the 12 points here really has helped seems beating Valmiera seems to be a struggling, the only team we have lost both games too so far without scoring against them.

4 teams will qualify for Europe with 2nd to 4th heading to the Europa Conference League. All 3 of those places head into the First Qualifying Round so any additional position is great for morale, but just keeping the gap to the bottom 3 will be over-achieving this season with our youthful Latvian team. With 12 games to go, we currently sit 10 points ahead of BFC Daugavplis but there is no difference between the bottom 3. At this point, the games are coming thick and fast and a few injuries have hit us and we are short of wingers, most our players are down the middle. We may see if there are any interested players in the upcoming transfer window but with a small budget, they will have to be on a free.

Youth Intake

We wanted to get a Latvian Head of Youth Development but they all wanted over €500 per week which was way over budget. We managed to secure Bulgarian Stefan Yaramov who is a great judge of youth players, but this intake were probably already at the club before he came. If we can get one or two "elite" players that would be a successful intake but right now, it is a lottery. If we can get a wide player that will also help for us wanting to play a 4-4-2 at this point.

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Excellent result against the Netherlands, did you use the 442 or the 541? 

If you are short of wingers playing a wide midfielder on support could be an option for you. I play with one with Zabrze during the first season due to a lack of wingers and the 442 tactic was still really effective.

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1 hour ago, MattyLewis11 said:

Excellent result against the Netherlands, did you use the 442 or the 541? 

If you are short of wingers playing a wide midfielder on support could be an option for you. I play with one with Zabrze during the first season due to a lack of wingers and the 442 tactic was still really effective.

We used 5-4-1 but for some reason it is calling it a 5-3-2 on the heat map. We were played off the park but managed to keep possession and frustrated them all game which I think is the only way to play with smaller teams in these situations. They did have a goal pulled back for off-side which if that had gone in, we probably lose by a couple.

I will have to look at that, I promoted from the B team to cover injuries for now but the 4-4-2 seems a solid tactic here and without great play makers, keeping it simple is always helpful.

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We are officially a "Stepping Stone Club" 

That is what we have to say to every new recruit that comes in, that they can use us as a springboard to better football and put a release fee into the contract talks. But, least we were able to bring two players in during the 2nd transfer window as the board allowed a larger wage budget when we moved the season's goals to something more lofty. This gave us around €800 more per week to play with and I had my first target in mind, keeper Reinis Reinholds. The 23 year old had not signed with anyone all season and our previous attempts to get him were not successful as we didn't have the wages available. We could only get him for 18 months as he want's a bigger club, but for now it is a huge upgrade to our goalkeeping room seems he has just been called up to the Latvia first team and pushing for his first cap. At 202 cm tall, he is certainly an imposing figure.

We would go to Norway next to get loan signing Eduards Daškevičs on board to give us more attacking options for the second part of the season. We have a future fee of €28,000 also with the loan if we have any funds and he provides to be a threat at this level. The 19 year old striker started life in Belgium but has made no first team starts so far, which will change back in Latvia. He already has 9 under 21 caps for Latvia and joins 6 other Metta players in the squad. A solid pick-up to bolster the attack.

We have started to lose some players from the "B" Team as we just do not have any wage left to offer contracts to the amateur players. I have a feeling we will need all of the budget for next season so we are focusing on only those who really have a chance at the first team in the next season or two.

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Latvia Team Update - World Cup Qualifying Part 2

If you would have offered 10 points from 6 games at the start, we would have snapped your hand off. We welcomed Norway to Latvia and produced a stunning defensive display to hold them to just 1 goal. Things would get off the perfect start when former Metta Academy player Raimonds Krollis opened the scoring after 20 minutes with a stunner from the edge of the box. Everyone was still celebrating when Erling Haaland answered straight back to level the game a minute later. Dāvis Ikaunieks would score the game winner just before the half with a short range header which was only destine for the back of the net. Norway would have 27 shot's but the line held firm for 45 minutes for the fantastic victory over the 46th ranked team.

Montenegro would boost their campaign with a 0-2 victory as the 2nd game in 4 days pushed the team to the limits and just didn't have the same energy as we lost the possession battle and were soundly beaten on the day. In what could be the last win of the campaign, we welcomed Gibraltar to Latvia and keeper Reinis Reinhold would get his first cap for his country but it was a man of the match performance from Raimonds Krollis as he now has 4 goals in 4 starts for his new Latvia Manager. 

We have 4 games left with 4 tough games to go, expecting any more points may be pushing it. We are on the outside looking in to qualify but in reality, we may slip down to 5th by the end of he campaign unless we can pull out a major shock once more. Back to the 5-4-1 for the next 4 games to try and secure a few more vital points.

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First Youth Intake - September 2021

I'm going to hold off the excitement of the stars on this one as we don't have the greatest staff at the club to truly see who is the next first team players and who are not. I'm expecting these values to change over the next year so all the elite and top prospects have been signed to part time contracts for now, this is €6 rather than €65 as that could be a huge difference in wage spend for next year. The top rated prospect is Janis Stepanovs 21a who we may look to retrain as a winger, but the ability to play up top may also help. We shall see how his development does over the next year and see if any more of the group actually have more potential.  

We also signed an affiliate contract with Czech club, Slovan Liberec. It was a choice between them and Swansea but it seemed like we would be able to get more players on loan from these rather than the Welsh club. With more games in Europe (hopefully) next season we need to look at bringing in a few non-Latvian players who can help enhance the team, if there are not enough Latvian players who are of the standard to help us improve. I do not plan to take anyone until next season and hopefully on free wages will help fill the squad out.

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