After 117 years of hurt, Finland will finally compete at a major tournament this summer.
Drawn into Group B alongside favourites Belgium as well as Denmark and Russia, they will be hoping but not expecting to make it through to the knockout stages. We’d like it if they did, if only because we’d get to enjoy their lovely kit for a few more days.
Here is everything you need to know about one of Euro 2020’s minnows heading into the tournament.
90min previews Belgium ahead of Euro 2020, looking at strengths, weaknesses, qualification and predictions.
There is reason for great optimism in Ukraine heading into this summer’s European Championships. Andriy Shevchenko’s men surprised nearly everyone with their f
A preview of Denmark at this summer’s Euro 2020, including their key players and route through to the tournament.
A preview of Austria’s chances at Euro 2020, including strengths, weaknesses and key players to watch.
Prior to the arrival of coach Markku Kanerva in 2016, Finland were some way off reaching a major tournament.
Under the former school teacher things have slowly but surely turned around. After a promising display in the Nations League, Kanerva led his charges to second place in Group J – enough for an automatic qualification place.
Along the way they picked up impressive victories over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece while also remaining competitive in their two games against group winners Italy. Key to their success was the form of Teemu Pukki. The Norwich City hitman managed 10 goals in qualification, a figure only bettered by Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Israel hotshot Eran Zahavi.
It was not all plain sailing, though. Both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece got their revenge in return fixtures with the Finns losing four games in total.
Two words. Teemu Pukki.
Finland’s emergence as a viable tournament team has correlated directly with Pukki rediscovering his scoring form after moving to Alan Partridge country in 2018. If his side are to have any chance of getting out of their group, he will need to find the back of the net.
Pukki is not Finland’s only star man, though. Lukas Hradecky is Bayer Leverkusen’s number one goalkeeper and has long been considered one of the Bundesliga’s most reliable shot stoppers. Even if Finland execute their gameplan to perfection he is likely to be busy at the tournament.
Aside from their obvious dearth of player for player quality, what may cause Finland problems is their lack of big game experience.
Aside from Hradecky, no member of the 26-man contingent plays regularly in Europe’s top five leagues. This is also the first major tournament for the entire squad.
The manager has never done it at the top level either. Kanerva’s previous job was as Finland’s assistant manager and before that he was in charge of the Under-21 side. Whether he can prevent his side wilting under the pressure remains to be seen.
We already know about Pukki but what about the rest of the Finland squad?
Rangers Glen Kamara should be familiar to most, with the dogged midfielder a key part of the Rangers team that ended Celtic’s hopes of winning ten Scottish titles in a row last season. Brentford forward Marcus Forss could also feature in the Premier League next term after impressing from the bench in the Championship.
Nikolai Alho, likely to start at right-back in the tournament, is one to watch off the pitch. He has released a number of rap songs, although his latest effort Hold Up is a bit too commercial for our tastes.
Goalkeepers: Lukas Hradecky (Leverkusen), Jesse Joronen (Brescia), Anssi Jaakkola (Bristol Rovers)
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 Vaisanen (Elfsborg), Sauli Vaisanen (Chievo)
Midfielders: Nikolai Alho (MTK Budapest), Fredrik Jensen (Augsburg), Glen Kamara (Rangers), Joni Kauko (Esbjerg), Robin Lod (Minnesota United), Rasmus Schuller (Djugarden), Pyry Soiri (Esbjerg), Tim Sparv (Larissa), Robert Taylor (Brann), Onni Valakari (Pafos)
Forwards: Marcus Forss (Brentford), Lassi Lappalainen (Montreal), Joel Pohjanpalo (Union Berlin), Teemu Pukki (Norwich)
Both Belgium and Denmark are likely to prove too much for Finland to handle. They will be targeting the Russia game, though, with the two teams evenly matched.
A win there and Finland could sneak through as one of the tournament’s best third place teams. Doing anything beyond that will be a real stretch. Then again, we did see Iceland knock out England last time around so don’t rule it out entirely.