Baltic teams' World Cup campaign off to promising start

  • 2004-09-15
  • From staff and wire reports
RIGA - Portugal effortlessly dispensed with its second Baltic opponent in the space of a week in its World Cup qualifier against Estonia on Sept. 8. Fresh from beating Latvia 0-2, Portugal soundly thrashed Estonia 4-0 to take joint second spot in Group 3 with the Estonians. And once again it was the teenage sensation Ronaldo who made all the difference.

Estonia came into the match brimming with confidence after two successive victories and, after playing an extremely defensive game, it looked as if it might be on course for a draw. But then along came Ronaldo to open the floodgates in the 76th minute, scoring a header from Deco's cross.
Just four minutes later Porto striker Postiga scored a second and Pauleta made it 3-0 in the 87th minute, partly atoning for his dismal performance at Euro 2004. But by that point Estonia had crumbled so dramatically it didn't much matter what the score was. Postiga grabbed a fourth in stoppage time. Striker Andres Oper went closest to a goal for Estonia when he hit the post
Ronaldo set up both of Postiga's goals and gave another memorable performance of his phenomenal talents. The Manchester United player is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting figures in European soccer.
As for the Estonians, they'll want to forget the game as quickly as possible. It was hardly the ideal way to mark goalkeeper Mart Poom's 100th appearance for his country, but they can take some comfort from the fact they were beaten by a far superior team.
Latvia, which is also in Group 3, managed to put the misery of defeat against Portugal aside to beat Luxemburg 4-3 in a thrilling encounter on Sept. 8.
Latvia took the lead in just the fourth minute through Maris Verpakovskis but Gordon Braun equalized for the hosts six minutes later. Defender Mihails Zemlinskis then scored a penalty in the 40th minute to give Latvia a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
Luxembourg started the second half strongly and scored two goals early on, first through midfielder Alphonse Leweck in a swift counter-attack in the 55th minute, and then through Manuel Cardoni with a free kick seven minutes later.
But an own goal by defender Eric Hoffmann, who was trying to clear a cross from a Latvian attack down the wing, put the visitors level again in the 65th minute. Then two minutes later Prohorenkovs grabbed the winner after the Luxembourg defense made a poor clearance from a free kick.
Slovakia now tops Group 3 with seven points from three games, Portugal and Estonia are in joint second place with six points (though Portugal has a game in hand), and Latvia is in third place with three points from two games.
Latvia next faces Slovakia in Bratislava on Oct. 9, and then Latvia and Estonia will meet in an all-Baltic encounter on Oct. 13. in Riga.
Lithuanian sports fans, meanwhile, finally have something else to be happy about apart from basketball as Lithuania is currently on top of Group 7 after thrashing San Marino 4-0 in their Sept. 8 match in Kaunas.
Edgaras Jankauskas opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a close-range effort and then netted a second five minutes into the second half when he latched onto a cross from Nerijus Barasa. An unmarked Tomas Danilevicius tapped in Lithuania's third 15 minutes later and substitute Andrius Gedgaudas added a fourth one minute into stoppage time.
Lithuania currently tops Group 7 with four points from two games.