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Destiny calls for Dacia

Teams from Romania, Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia will contest the central/east preliminary round.

The teams in the central/east preliminary group face a longer journey than most to reach the 2004/05 UEFA Regions' Cup finals, but as they chase the holy grail of European amateur footballers, the teams who will be lining up for the tournament in Ploiesti and Campina, Romania know how much is at stake.

Serious business
Vladimir Direktorenko, the coach of Latvia Amateur - who also works for the Latvian Football Federation, spoke for all of the teams preparing for the finals when he said: "This is the most important tournament of the season, so we are taking it as seriously as possible."

Key players
Latvia are a team composed largely of students, and are led by goalkeeper Dainis Vitols. Other key players to look out for are defender Ervins Krainis, midfield player Pavels Barmakovs and striker Guntars Silagailis. The players held a special pre-Regions' Cup training camp in Ozolnieki between 16 and 19 October.

Useful experience
The team have gathered useful experience by playing a number of friendly games, drawing 0-0 against Virsliga side FK Ditton Daugavpils before losing 4-0 to top-flight side FC Dinaburg Daugavpils. More recently they drew 1-1 against second division FK Dižvanagi.

Attacking policy
However, while they have not won any of their pre-tournament friendlies, Latvia are going into the finals with a positive attitude and their opening-day opponents, hosts Dacia Amateur, can expect a rough ride. "If you bank on defending, you will not achieve anything," said Direktorenko.

Host team
Dacia, however, will be a force to be reckoned with too. Players for the team were selected in a series of regional auditions from the best players active in Romania's amateur fourth division, and coach Dan Firiteanu, who previously led Romania's Under-18 team, has been set the task of leading them.

Mystery men
As with previous Romanian Regions' Cup teams, they go under the name Dacia - which was the name of the former Roman region covered by modern Romania. The players met up for the first time a week before the final tournament, and as such, few have seen what they are capable of.

Estonian representatives
The other game on the first day of the tournament will see Estonia Amateur and Central Slovakia amateur come face to face. Estonia have fielded a team representing the whole of the nation but composed of players from the northeast of the country.

Late arrivals
The team met up for the first time on Thursday, and as a result, 65-year-old coach Joosep Katsev does not have high hopes. "Our chances of qualifying are close to nothing," he said. "I saw the players for the first time on Thursday, so it is impossible to say anything about them yet."  

Slovakian contenders
Central Slovakia, meanwhile, will be led by the 60-year-old Jan Petrak. No Slovakian side has made it to the finals of the Regions' Cup yet, but Petrak's side will be keen to change that in the fourth edition of the tournament.

Round robin
The four sides will face each other in a round-robin tournament with the second games being played on 22 September and the final ones on 24 September. The team that wins the group will qualify for a place in Regions' Cup Group 8. The runners-up may also have a chance of qualifying too. The best runner-up from the two preliminary rounds will earn a place in Group 2.