Captain Tomas Danilevičius says Lithuania "have matured as a team" but is unwilling to countenance talk of a 2010 FIFA World Cup finals place for the moment, saying: "It would be a horrible mistake to see ourselves as favourites."
'We started brightly'
With three wins in their first four Group 7 games, Lithuania are level on points with Serbia at the top of the section, but striker Danilevičius is not getting carried away. "No doubt, we started brightly," conceded the 30-year-old, "but it would be a horrible mistake see ourselves as favourites. If we do we'll be punished immediately. We have to take each game as it comes."
Lithuania have beaten Romania, Austria and the Faroe Islands, but lost against Serbia, and face another stern test at home against France in Kaunas on 28 March. They will then face Raymond Domenech's side in Paris three days later, and will doubtless have a more accurate idea of their place in the scheme of things in qualifying terms afterwards.
Danilevičius, Lithuania's all-time top scorer with 17 goals in 52 games, may be more keen to assess his side's chances of a World Cup finals debut after those games, but for now he is tight-lipped. "I'm not keen on making predictions," he said. "The next match is always crucial for us. No one expected us to be top of such a strong group so opponents will treat us differently."
Many have credited Portuguese coach José Couceiro with Lithuania's sharp upturn in footballing fortunes, but Danilevičius feels more than one factor has been at work. "Every coach brings something new but no one can build a strong team in such a short time," he said. "We have all played together for a while, so we have meshed and matured as a team. Unity is a major part of our strength."
Danilevičius's three World Cup qualifying goals for Lithuania this season make a stark contrast with his form for Serie B leaders AS Livorno Calcio, where he has not scored in 18 league games. "No player would be happy with those figures, but the coach trusts me," he said. "There was speculation about me leaving but I'm very happy at Livorno, and under contract until 2011. As they say, enough is as good as a feast."
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