Unheralded Latvia produced a gritty performance of determination and endeavour to deny Germany and earn their first major tournament point in an entertaining goalless draw in UEFA EURO 2004 Group D.
The Baltic underdogs gallantly withstood constant second-half pressure, and could have even grabbed a shock win had Māris Verpakovskis taken a gilt-edged first-half chance. Germany dominated proceedings after the interval, but were ultimately frustrated as they failed to convert their chances.
Germany made one change from the team that drew 1-1 with the Netherlands on Tuesday, Fredi Bobic coming in up front to partner Kevin Kuranyi. Frank Baumann moved from the midfield holding role into central defence to replace Jens Nowotny, who has been carrying a knee injury. Latvia started with the same team that lost narrowly to the Czech Republic in their opening game.
English referee Michael Riley was reaching for his yellow card inside 30 seconds, Latvia's Aleksandrs Isakovs going into the book for a clumsy touchline challenge on Torsten Frings. It was Frings who had the first chance of the game, shooting over from long range on eight minutes, and Rudi Völler's side threatened again near the quarter-hour when Kuranyi sent a 20-metre volley wide.
Latvia responded with an Andrejs Rubins free-kick that deflected over the bar for a corner, and there was little to choose between the sides in a lively opening. Arne Friedrich was booked for handball when industrious Latvia produced an encouraging spell of pressure which included an Igors Stepanovs header from a corner saved by goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
Back came Germany for Bernd Schneider to shoot just wide, and Dietmar Hamann was off-target with an ambitious volley as the game ebbed and flowed. Keeper Aleksandrs Koliņko then made two good saves from shots by Michael Ballack and Kuranyi, as Latvia were driven further and further back.
Germany were taking control, Ballack driving over the crossbar nine minutes before half-time but doughty Latvia were resisting solidly as the interval approached. And the Baltic side went agonisingly close to taking the lead on 40 minutes when Verpakovskis burst past three defenders and raced clear, only for Kahn to come out and smother his shot.
Germany made a half-time change, introducing Bastian Schweinsteiger for Schneider to give a greater attacking option on the left flank. They pushed forward aggressively after the restart, but Latvia continued to work diligently to keep them at bay.
Frings was booked for fouling Rubins, and Latvia had vehement claims for a penalty turned down when Verpakovskis fell under a challenge from Baumann. Germany kept pressing, Koliņko saving Schweinsteiger's low effort and Frings lashing a cross-shot just wide.
Latvia were being forced to defend constantly by the hour mark, Schweinsteiger and Bobic both failing to make telling contact with a low Philipp Lahm cross. Koliņko then beat out a fierce Ballack free-kick with the game being played exclusively in the Latvian half.
Both sides made substitutions, Miroslav Klose coming on for Bobic while Marians Pahars and Juris Laizāns replaced Andrejs Prohorenkovs and Valentins Lobanovs for Latvia. Klose had a golden chance to win it in added time but could only head wide when unmarked in front of goal as Latvia held on for a famous draw.
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