Marians Pahars has been appointed as Latvia national team coach, replacing long-serving Aleksandrs Starkovs at the helm.
In an unexpected move, the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) decided in favour of a change, with the national team lingering one place above bottom side Liechtenstein in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group G. It was anticipated that Starkovs, who led the country to UEFA EURO 2004 during his first spell in charge from 2001 to 2004, would remain in command for the last four qualifiers before stepping down, but the LFF opted to end the coach's six-year second stint immediately.
"I have great respect for Aleksandrs Starkovs," the 36-year-old Pahars told UEFA.com after his appointment. "His name is connected with all the main success stories of Latvian football in recent times. The new generation of Latvian coaches can only dream of repeating what he has done. It is a big honour and responsibility to take over the Latvia team. I will try to be of use. Some important matches are coming up, so I cannot afford a slow start."
Pahars, who earned 75 caps in Latvian colours, steps up from the Latvia Under-21 post after beginning his coaching career as an assistant under Starkovs at Skonto FC. The former Southampton FC forward was handed the Skonto reins in 2011, guiding them to a second-placed league finish and Latvian Cup win in the 2012 season, before accepting the U21 job in January.
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