Who are RFS? Focus on Latvian champions ahead of Europa Conference League clash with Hearts

Hearts face Latvian champions RFS in the second match of their Europa Conference League campaign in Riga on Thursday night.

Here, is a lowdown on a side enjoying their first crack at European group-stage football.


RFS won the Latvian Virsliga for the first time last year, finishing four points ahead of Valmiera. They are joint second in the current season - which is played across a calendar year - seven points adrift of leaders Valmiera. They are in decent form at present, unbeaten in their last 10 matches in all competitions. Their most recent match brought a 3-0 home win over Spartaks Jurmala on Monday.

Viktors Morozs is in his first managerial role after taking charge of RFS in 2020. Picture: Gabriele Maltinti/Getty


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Viktors Morozs, a 42-year-old former Latvia midfielder, is in his first managerial role after taking charge of RFS in 2020 following a spell as assistant coach at Daugavpils. As a player, he won 24 caps for the national team between 2002 and 2014. He spent the majority of his career in his homeland, although he also had spells in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Belarus.


RFS have an array of physically imposing players standing at over 6ft tall. They have two clear and obvious goal threats. Emerson Deocleciano, a 23-year-old Brazilian forward, scored 11 times in each of his previous two seasons in Riga and has notched a further 10 this term. Serbian Andrej Ilic, 22, is the team's top scorer this season with 15 goals, including the equaliser away to Fiorentina last week. Latvian striker Dennis Rakels and Czech midfielder Petr Mares are also capable of chipping in with goals.


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European pedigree

This is RFS's fourth consecutive season in Europe after they competed in continental competition for the first time in 2019. They were eliminated in the first qualifying round of the Europa League in both 2019 and 2020 and then made it to the third qualifying round of the Conference League last year before losing 3-2 on aggregate to Gent after a creditable 2-2 draw in Belgium. This year, after losing on penalties to HJK Helsinki in a Champions League play-off in July, they dropped into the Conference League and became only the second Latvian side to qualify for European group-stage football following victory a dramatic play-off victory over Linfield last month. They pulled off their best European result to date last week when drawing 1-1 away to Fiorentina. They have lost only five of their 16 European matches.