Euro 2020 profile: Finland making history

by | Jun 9, 2021 12:09

12 June – Denmark (5pm GMT, Parken, Copenhagen)

16 June – Russia (2pm GMT, Gazprom Arena, St Petersburg)

21 June – Belgium (8pm GMT, Gazprom Arena, St Petersburg)

Finland embark of their first major tournament and will not want to look like the new boys upon arrival, Richard Hall writes…

A Proud First

Finland will arrive at Euro 2020 full of optimism and with a semblance of hope. They have certainly showed they are no pushovers in the qualification stage and will want to continue that in the tournament proper, and having seen what Iceland have done in the past, will certainly feel that they are organised and hard to beat and have a goal threat. Huuhkajat are in a tough group but they are there to make it even tougher.

Markku Kanerva is a very organised coach. He saw his side finish above Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Liechtenstein in qualification, and score 16 goals – only Italy and Bosnia scored more. Finland conceded just 10, and only the Azzurri beat that with a remarkable four. In qualifications credit was due to Kanerva and his tactics because many expected Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece to finish above his side. The coach’s ability to switch from a 4-4-2 to a 5-3-2 depending on the game helped a great deal. Even so, the players had to know their jobs and the coach had them operating like a well- drilled club team. Kanerva doesn’t have a lot of depth to choose from but has worked that to his advantage.

If you look at their Finland’s first qualification game, against Italy in Udine, it took 74 minutes and a deflected shot to break the deadlock. Arguably, this was their hardest game and from it came confidence. Only a 4-1 defeat to Bosnia and Herzegovina saw them Finland beaten badly but this was a one off and when they come to face the likes of Denmark, Russia and even Belgium, they will do so with confidence that they will not be embarrassed.

One player they have to rely on is Teemu Pukki. The Norwich man has a rich history of clubs, having represented Sevilla, Schalke and Celtic and he is a threat. In qualifiers, he scored 10 of the Finns’ 16 goals and there is a definite plan on the offensive. For the opposition, shut Pukki out of the game and Finland may struggle with a plan B. Robin Lod provided three assists in the qualifiers and is perhaps one of the most creative players in the squad. The Minnesota United support striker worryingly did not find the net, however. Pukki and Lod are though an in-tune partnership.

They are complimented by attacking midfielder Frederik Jensen, who should be a threat. Finally, in Lukas Hradecky, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen, they have an accomplished goalkeeper, meaning the spine of this team is very solid. This is especially true when you add in the centre-back partnership of Joona Toivio and Paulus Arajuuri, who, while not the most talented, work well together and will be hard to get past.

Overall, if Finland get out of the group it will be a victory. They will certainly make life difficult for teams but if their key players can all stay fit then they will surely pounce if Denmark, Russia or even Belgium don’t show enough respect.

Coach: Markku Kanerva — The ex-caretaker manager is a man for detail and a man for tactics. In Finland, they even say (in jest) that he has to know where the sprinklers are before a game.

Preferred XI: Hradecky; Raitala, Toivio, Arajuuri, Vaisanen, Uronen; Sparv, Lod, Kamara; Pukki, Pohjanpalo.

The formation switches from 5-3-2 to 4-4-2 making Finland flexible depending on the opposition. The team is organised, so they can be incredibly hard to break down.

Look out for: Teemu Pukki is Finland’s biggest hope and while the nation puts pressure on him, he often comes up with the goods.

Finland Euro 2020 squad:

Goalkeepers: Lukas Hradecky (Leverkusen), Anssi Jaakkola (Bristol Rovers), Jesse Joronen (Brescia)

Defenders: Paulus Arajuuri (Pafos), Robert Ivanov (Warta Poznan), Thomas Lam (Zwolle), Daniel O’Shaughnessy (HJK Helsinki), Jukka Raitala (Minnesota United), Joona Toivio (Hacken), Jere Uronen (Genk), Leo Väisänen (Elfsborg), Sauli Vaisanen (Chievo)

Midfielders: Nikolai Alho (MTK Budapest), Fredrik Jensen (Augsburg), Glen Kamara (Rangers), Joni Kauko (Esbjerg), Robin Lod (Minnesota United), Rasmus Schüller (Djurgarden), Pyry Soiri (Esbjerg), Tim Sparv (Larissa), Robert Taylor (Brann), Onni Valakari (Pafos)

Strikers: Marcus Forss (Brentford), Lassi Lappalainen (Montréal), Joel Pohjanpalo (Union Berlin), Teemu Pukki (Norwich)

Finland versus…

…Denmark P 59 W 11 7 D 10 L 38 F 60 A 151

…Russia P 4 W 0 D 0 L 4 F 1 A 15

…Belgium P 11 W 4 D 4 L 3 F 19 A 20

Stats

Population: 5.53m

Nickname: Huuhkajat (The Eagle-Owls)

Top Division: Veikkausliiga

FIFA World Ranking: 54

International honours: None

Most capped player: Jari Litmanen (137)

Leading international scorer: Jari Litmanen (32)

Finland at the European Championships:

1960 – Did not enter

1964 – Did not enter

1968 – Did not qualify

1972 – Did not qualify

1976 – Did not qualify

1980 – Did not qualify

1984 – Did not qualify

1988 – Did not qualify

1992 – Did not qualify

1996 – Did not qualify

2000 – Did not qualify

2004 – Did not qualify

2008 – Did not qualify

2012 – Did not qualify

2016 – Did not qualify

How they got to Euro 2020: Finland finished a credible second behind Italy in Group J collecting 18 points

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