Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Eastern Europe: Baltic Cup 2010 Preview

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 16, 2010
Baltic Cup Logo

The Baltic Cup tournament takes place in Lithuania from June 18-20

The FIFA World Cup is not the only international tournament going on in the world of football at the moment. The Baltic Cup football tournament takes place in Lithuania from June 18-20 with three matches in as many days deciding which of the Baltic States will triumph over their rivals. Latvia, defending champions after winning the most recent competition in 2008, will help kick off the tournament by participating in the opening game against hosts Lithuania. Latvia will then face off against Estonia in the second game twenty four hours later and the tournament will conclude with the host nation meeting tournament outsiders Estonia on June 20th. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the tournament with a short history of the event and a look at the current teams ahead of the big kick off.

The first ever Baltic Cup tournament took place in 1928 in Estonia and it was Latvia’s Arkādijs Pavlovs who secured his place in the competition’s history books by scoring the first ever Baltic Cup goal after just two minutes in a 3-0 win over Lithuania. Latvia won the first ever Baltic Cup after beating Estonia in the tournament decider by a goal to nil. Estonia won their maiden Baltic Cup the following year gaining revenge on Latvia by pipping the tournament hosts to the title on goal difference by one. The third tournament in 1930 saw Lithuania win their first tournament and it was again decided on goal difference with Lithuania’s final match 3-3 draw being enough to give them the trophy. The tournament was won fairly evenly up until 1938 with Latvia winning the event five times (1928, 1932, 1933, 1936 & 1937) compared to Estonia’s three (1929, 1931 & 1938) and Lithuania’s two (1930 & 1935). After Estonia’s 1938 triumph the Baltic Cup would fail to be played between independent states for another 53 years after many years of Soviet occupation. During the Soviet era a tournament did continue to take place in most years but it was re-instated as a tournament between nation states after each of the Baltic countries secured their independence between 1990-91.

Post-Independence Baltic Cup football has been a two horse race with Latvia and Lithuania sharing the titles between them. The year 1991 saw host nation Lithuania win their third title on goal difference from Latvia. The tournament would continue to be run as an annual event until 1998 and, during this time, Lithuania were the regional power chalking up six title wins in eight tournaments with Latvia victorious in two tournaments (1993 & 1995). Since the beginning of the 21st Century the Baltic Cup has been held every 2-3 years depending on each nation’s various commitments in the international footballing calendar. In the last decade the tournament was held four times with Latvia returning to prominence as the regional footballing power winning three titles out of four (2001, 2003 & 2008) with Lithuania winning their ninth ever title in 2005 with the event being reduced to a one-off game due to Estonia’s inability to find a place for the team in their schedule. Lithuanian Igoris Morinas scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Latvia to gift them the 2005 title but the defeated finalists got their own back in the most recent tournament in 2008. After both Lithuania and Latvia had secured victories against Estonia the two teams met in the tournament decider in Riga and it was host nation Latvia who won a record tenth title with Kaspars Gorkšs and an own goal from Vidas Alunderis giving Latvia a 2-0 lead before Ričardas Beniušis pulled one back for Lithuania with nine minutes to go. Watch the goals from the 2008 Latvia v Lithuania match HERE:

For this year’s tournament Latvia and Lithuania have created squads with a balance between youth and experience whilst the Estonian squad mainly consists of players who have plenty of caps. Only five out of twenty players in the Estonian set-up have fewer than twenty caps compared to eleven players for Latvia and seventeen out of twenty-four from Lithuania. Perhaps the players to look out for in the tournament will be Latvia’s striker Kristaps Grebis, who was the Latvian league’s top scorer last season with 30 goals, Lithuania’s Darvydas Šernas who has just completed his first season in Polish football scoring twelve goals in 34 league games, and Estonia’s Kaimar Saag, a promising 21 year old who scored his first international goal in December 2009 and has recently won his twentieth cap.

BALTIC CUP 2010 FIXTURES

18.06.2010 Lithuania v Latvia (in Kaunas)

19.06.2010 Latvia v Estonia (in Kaunas)

20.06.2010 Lithuania v Estonia (in Marijampolė)

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