The Czech Republic's Bořek Dočkal noted how well Latvia had done their homework, Kaspars Dubra and Valērijs Šabala mindful that a 1-1 draw was the least they deserved.
Article top media content
Going into this UEFA EURO 2016 Group A encounter, the result looked like a foregone conclusion; the Czech Republic had won their first four qualifiers while Latvia had yet to score from open play. However, things did not quite go to plan for Pavel Vrba's side. UEFA.com's Ondřej Zlámal explains how the visitors got the measure of the group leaders.
Latvia's simple plan worked out
"We wanted to create chances and be more creative but we failed," explained midfielder Bořek Dočkal, the Czechs' top scorer in qualifying with three goals. "Latvia had simple tactics, and waited for us to make mistakes. We did not get the loose balls, and that allowed them to launch dangerous counterattacks."
Aleksejs Višņakovs' goal on the break was the result of exactly that scenario, though AC Sparta Praha midfielder Dočkal was impressed with other aspects of the visitors' game. "At set pieces, I realised they knew exactly what was coming, and what we would do," he explained. "If they had better finishing, they would have hurt us even more."
Dutch defeat; Latvian lessons
Václav Pilař's late goal earned the Czechs a point, but Latvia's Kaspars Dubra – outstanding in central defence – was immensely proud of his side's performance. "Our tactics worked well, especially in the first half," said the FC BATE Borisov man. "We aimed to defend well and counter. In the first half, they did not have any chances, but we had a few."
It was a far cry from the 6-0 defeat that Latvia suffered in their previous Group A game. "We learned our lesson from the match in the Netherlands," Dubra said. "There, we allowed too much space in our defence for them to create chances. Against the Czechs we helped each other, and avoid letting anyone get into difficult one-on-one situations."
Set-piece nous; clear instructions
Kaspars Gorkšs' time abroad with the likes of Blackpool FC, Queens Park Rangers FC and Reading FC also proved important in the heart of defence. Dubra said: "He has experience in English football, so he helped to organise our defence to face the set pieces."
Forward Valērijs Šabala – who plays his club football in the Czech Republic with FK Jablonec – felt Marians Pahars deserved plenty of credit for getting the tactics right: "It is a fair result. We deserved a point and would have had more if I had taken my late chance. Our coach told us to be compact in midfield and on the wings. We fulfilled those instructions – that is why we got a positive result."