Pyunik continues its training camp abroad. Along with trainings, our team also holds control matches, competing with leading teams from different countries.
Our upcoming rival is Latvian Riga, which was founded only 9 years ago. The team bearing the name of the capital has become a three-time champion of the country and a two-time cup winner in a short period of time.
Our press service has thoroughly studied important events and interesting facts related to Riga.
In 2016, a new name, Riga, joins the Latvian championship
The club was founded at the beginning of 2015, when two clubs, Karamba and Dynamo, merged.
In 2014, Karamba took the first place in the Latvian Second League, but in the following season it was dissolved and joined the local Dynamo. That year, Karamba/Dinamo managed to qualify for the Latvian Premier League, and in 2015, a separate club, Riga, was officially founded.
The club's first success didn’t take long. Riga won a golden brace in 2018. Ventspils offered a serious competition to our upcoming rival in the championship, which beat them by 4 points in the final result.
The first experience in European Cups
Riga's first European Cup experience was not significant. In the first qualifying round of the Europa League, CSKA Sofia overcame the Latvian team thanks to the post-match penalty shootout.
The unchangeable champion of Latvia
Focusing on the domestic championship, Riga defended the champion title for two consecutive seasons, in 2019 and 2020. Another city-based team, RFS, was competing with our rival, but despite a persistent struggle, could not reach Riga in the hot race.
A serious struggle, a slip at the end
In the 2019/20 season, Riga participated in the Champions League and Europa League qualifying round matches. The main European Cup ended instantly for them with a defeat to the Irish Dundalk. However, already in the Europa League, the Latvians did a feat, reaching the playoffs and removing the Finnish HIK and the Polish Piast from their path. However, the more experienced Danish Copenhagen was stronger in the fight for the group stage qualification.
Riga has never participated in the final of a major tournament, but has consistently offered competition in the qualifying rounds. Let us remember the 2021/22 season, when Riga lost to the Swedish Malmö in the first round of the Champions League. Retreating to the third strongest tournament, the team reached the playoffs, scoring victories over Shkendija of North Macedonia and Hibernians of Malta.
The Latvian championship can be considered quite young. Last season, Virsliga included 10 teams, only two of them were created in the last century. For example, the reigning champion RFS was founded in 2011, 4 years before Riga. It is noteworthy that Pyunik footballer Lucas Villela won the Golden Brace with the above-mentioned club 3 years ago.
The two bolides of the capital
The Latvian championship is held in the spring-autumn format, and here Riga and RFS gave crazy shades to the championship in the 2023 season. The two teams contested the championship mainly among themselves and as a result, RFS won with 89 points, and Riga remained behind, conceding only one point.
The best scorer of the last Virsliga season was Riga’s forward Marko Regzha, who scored 19 goals. With this rate the Latvian scorer was second with goals scored in the history of the club, falling 6 goals behind Darko Lemajic.
Armenia and Latvia with many similarities
It is interesting that Armenia and Latvia are neighbors in the ranking of UEFA European national championships, occupying the 36th and 37th positions, respectively.
Apart from that, there is another similarity in the matter of newly established clubs in the league.
Ararat-Armenia (2017) was created later than our upcoming rival Riga but managed to become a two-time champion of the domestic league and a one-time Super Cup winner. Both in Armenia and in Latvia, there are many clubs founded in the recent years.
Riga is the current winner of the Latvian Cup
Last year, Riga held a derby with the RFC in the Latvian Cup final. The teams exchanged goals, and the game went into overtime, and then a penalty shootout, where Riga beat the RFC, winning the Latvian Cup.
A total of 7 footballers are invited to the Latvia national team from this team. Our rival’s player Raivis Jurkovskis, who is considered one of Latvia's veterans, has played 37 matches for the national team.
Riga has been led by 50-year-old Finnish specialist Simo Valakari since January of this year. He has achieved success exclusively in his home country, winning the Finnish championship, league cup and three-time cup.
As we already mentioned above, Riga placed second in the finished season, while remaining undefeated in the last 8 games (5 wins, 3 draws). And in the whole season, the city team suffered only 2 defeats.