Tomas Ražanauskas's place in the Lithuanian footballing history books was guaranteed in the space of two remarkable games in UEFA EURO 2004 qualifying. On 29 March 2003, his goal earned Lithuania a 1-1 draw with Germany in Nuremberg, while four days later his penalty secured a 1-0 win at home against Scotland.
That week remains a massive one in the history of Lithuanian football, and one that Ražanauskas has struggled to top in the years since. Having sought success abroad with the likes of FC Torpedo Moskva, Servette FC, Malmö FF, SK Brann, Akratitos FC and Anorthosis Famagusta FC, he finally elected to return home to FK Žalgiris in 2008.
Having just finished a term with FC İnter Bakı in Azerbaijan, he passed up an offer from KS Widzew Łódź to play for free for his old club. "My wife was expecting a second baby, so I needed to be close to her and help out," he told UEFA.com. "Besides, a year and a half alone in Azerbaijan was enough. It is always easier to play and live at home."
He may have had reason to doubt his decision when Žalgiris went bankrupt in 2008, but a move to join their local rivals FK Vėtra has paid dividends for the playmaker. He led them to an unprecedented runners-up spot last season, while a decent UEFA Europa League run was only ended with defeat to eventual finalists Fulham FC.
His performances earned him a return to the national team after a five-year absence, earning his 40th and 41st caps in FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Serbia last autumn. "It was unexpected, and it was not my objective since I am not 20 years old any more," Ražanauskas, 34, admitted. "However it's always nice to come back."
Ražanauskas's fine form has continued into 2010; he scored four goals in his first four league games, and then hit another to take Vėtra's Lithuanian Cup semi-final against FK Sūduva into extra-time before stepping up to convert the winning penalty in the subsequent shoot-out. "Despite his age, Ražanauskas is still one of the best midfielders around," said his coach Virginijus Liubšys. "He organises play very well and also leads by example."
He will look to do just that in the cup final on 15 May, taking on the side that pipped them to last season's league title, FK Ekranas. "It's not important who are we playing," explained Ražanauskas. "It will be my first Lithuanian Cup final and I just want to win, not just for myself but also for the club who have never won a trophy."
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