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Dublin: 6°C Monday 1 March 2021

Ex-Southampton favourite Pahars plays down Latvia's chances

Martin O’Neill’s opposite number is hoping his side can give a good account of themselves tonight.

Pahars speaks to the media yesterday.
Pahars speaks to the media yesterday.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

IRELAND’S OPPONENTS LATVIA may not possess any household names in their squad but many fans will remember manager  Marian Pahars from this time in English football.

The former striker became something of a cult hero at Southampton where he scored 43 times  during a spell which last from 1999-2006 before he moved  on to Cyprus and eventually retired in his homeland.

The 37-year-old was in charge of the Latvian U21s but made the step up to the senior team when Aleksandrs Starkovs resigned in the summer.

They have since recorded one win, one draw and two defeats under Pahars to finish second from bottom in the World Cup qualifying group also containing Bosnia Herzegovina, Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

Pahars knows it will be a big ask to come away from the Aviva Stadium with anything other than a defeat tonight and was quick to emphasise the gulf in class between the two teams.

” We expect a tough game,” he said. “We’re playing against a very strong team. Even the rankings in FIFA say that. We’re quite far apart. But we’re determined and we want to show ourselves here in this fantastic stadium.

“We based it (preparations) on the games against Germany and Kazakhstan but since the new coach came in, we started to look differently.

“But the players are more or less the same. The style of play I remember what O’Neill played at Sunderland and before. I don’t think it will be a big surprise to me.

“They are individually very good. They are good players and are all playing on the highest level every week. Unfortunately we don’t have that. That is a disadvantage.

“Mainly our players are from the domestic league and it is not as strong as the Premiership or the Championship. We don’t have great games every week and they need that to compete on that level.”

Watch Pahars score against Manchester United:

YouTube credit: sean19sfc

Pahars and Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane would have faced each other a number of times during his stint with the Saints but he admits his recollection is patchy at best.

“I played a couple of games against Man United but whether I remember that well? No. It was a long time ago. He was a top player. It was a top team and still is. That was as players, now (we have) different roles.

“Of course I know everything about changes in Irish football and maybe we came at a difficult time… for us.

The players will be excited and will want to show themselves to the new management. They want to prove themselves, get their players.

“It will be difficult but it doesn’t make a big difference as we still have to go and play football and not be afraid to do that.”

O’Neill set to experiment in his first outing with Ireland

Caption time: What are Roy and Robbie saying at Lansdowne Road this evening?

About the author:

Ben Blake

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