6 Things You Might Not Know About Lithuania Ahead of Their World Cup Qualifier Against England

After falling to a 1-0 friendly defeat to Germany in the Lukas Podolski farewell party on Wednesday night, England will be looking to bounce back with a win against Lithuania on Sunday. With the humiliation of Iceland surely still ringing in their ears, the England players will be hoping to avoid another Baltic from the Blue, and overcome a side that they really ought to be beating - but that neither they, nor you, may know a lot about. Basketball has been Lithuania's national sport...

They Aren't Very Creative With Their Nicknames

You'd think the first country to break away from the USSR as it began to collapse might have a proud national moniker, to symbolise their liberation and single-mindedness in the face of potential oppressors. 

Similarly eastern-lying countries like Montenegro and Kazakhstan have nicknames that translate brilliantly as 'The Brave Falcons' and 'The Snow Leopards' respectively. Alas, Lithuania's nickname is the Rinktine, which roughly translates as 'the national team'. At least it's efficient. 

They Recently Held Scotland to a Draw

Not only this, but it took an 89th minute equaliser from James McArthur to spare the blushes of Gordon Strachan's one-man misery mission that is the current Scotland national team. Nevertheless, to hold the lead at Hampden Park- even for only half an hour, is quite an achievement. 

In fact, this Lithuanian side are on something of an unbeaten competitive run as of late, having beaten Malta 2-0 prior to the Scotland result, but also drawing with Slovenia (as England recently did too, in one of the worst matches in history) 2-2. 

They Have Never Made it to a World Cup...

Admittedly, for a large part of their history, they were part of the USSR - who themselves had an incredible team at one point in history - but the fact remains that the mustard, red, and green colours of Lithuania have never been seen on football's biggest stage. 

... And Have Only Won 16 Qualifiers Since 1930

Again, being under the USSR umbrella plays a part here and their actual record is still roughly one win in every three...but after the defeat to Germany, England need the boost, and you never know who might be reading this.

Plus, when you consider that Lithuania are probably still one step above the San Marinos, Faroe Islands, and Gibraltars of European football, that record really isn't very good.

The Rinktine (when you don't know what it translates to, it has quite a nice ring to it!) came closest to qualifying in the run up to the 1998 World Cup, where they finished third in their group, a point behind the Republic of Ireland in what can only be described as an incredibly easy group, featuring Baltic rivals Lichtenstein, and Lion-tamers-in-waiting Iceland.  

Gheorghe Hagi's Romania - incidentally, also future England beaters - won the group by 10 points

Their All-Time Leading Goalscorer Has Fewer Than 20 Goals

...And he's been retired since their unsuccessful attempt to qualify for Euro 2012. Tomas Danilevičius managed to accumulated 19 goals in 71 appearances. By contrast, Danny Welbeck - the man with exploding knees - has 14 goals in fewer than half the caps.  

Indeed, the only active member of the country's top 10 all time scorers is Fiodor Cernyk, in joint fifth place, who has 8 in 31 caps. Cernyk plies his trade in the Polish Ekstraklasa for Jagiellonia Bialystok, which is curiously also the name of Phil Jagielka's fantasy football team.

They'd Rather Be Playing Basketball

Basketball has been Lithuania's national sport for...well, a while now. 

As of 2016, the Lithuanian men's basketball team are currently ranked third in the world, behind the USA and Spain. There are currently four Lithuanian players in the NBA too, with the most promising being Oklahoma City Thunder's Domas Sabonis.

Indeed, in a 2011 Sports Illustrated article, Luke Winn was quoted as saying "Basketball is the only sport the 3.2 million Lithuanians truly care about - it's their second religion, after Catholicism - and their success is proportionately stunning."  

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