Tampere’s Ratina stadium hosts Finland’s fifth round of Euro 2020 qualifying the Thursday evening with a desperate Greek team heading North to spoil the party. Kanerva’s squad is strong enough to leave some talented players behind, the Greeks arrive with something of a headache up top. Teemu Pukki has seemed rather more clear headed in recent weeks, kick off is 21:45.
The Squad: The Premier League’s player of the month, Teemu Pukki is in the form of his life, scoring five goals in four Premier League games, three so far in the four Euro Qualifying games. Jasse Tuominen returns to the squad and is likely to partner Teemu up top since returning from injury he’s bagged 3 for BATE Borisov in the last seven games. In the midfield Lasse Lappalainen and Robin Lod have both started their seasons in the USA with goals, Tim Sparv is top of the league marshaling the midfield for Midtjylland and Glen Kamara continues to improve and impress at Rangers. Pyry Soiri and Rasmus Schüller are also in good form. At the back, Juha Pirinen has settled well at Tromso and will give Jere Uronen some stiff competition at left back, both Joona Toivio and Albin Granlund have maintained their form in the Swedish top flight, but Paulus Arajuuri, had a tricky start to the season at Bröndby, being rotated a lot, before being knocked out of Europe and transferring to Cypriot side Pafos. The call-up of Inter Turku’s Niko Markkula an ominous sign that all may not be right in that position. Lukas Hradecky remains ever-present for Bayer Leverkusen. Kanerva is likely to deploy his usual 4-4-2, with the only area of concern at center back, expect a quick start with the Huuhkajat looking for an early goal, otherwise, it could be a long old night.
Greece: The Greeks arrive in Tampere with a brand new manager, Dutchman John van’t Schip. The former Melbourne Heart and Guadalajara coach was most recently manager of PEC Zwolle, where he re-signed Thomas Lam, before being shown the door in December 2018. His first squad will be without the injured attacking midfielders Kostas Fortounis (Olympiacos) and Petros Mantolos (AEK Athens). Up top he has called up youngsters Marios Vrousai and Vangelis Pavlidis, the Willem II strikers are both in form, though neither have played for Greece before. Their inclusion also means that PSV striker Kostas Mitroglu did not get the call, nor did Brentford target man Nikos Karelis, the pair have twenty goals between them for Greece. Traditionally, the Greeks best game plan and greatest success has been built on a solid and stifling defense. This squad contains all of the big hitters, Arsenal’s Sokratis Papasthopolous, Napoli’s Kostas Manolos, Hoffenheim’s Kostas Stafylidis and captain Vasilis Torosidis are all included. The new coach is however a good student of Van Basten and has played a fluid 4-3-3 in Australia, Mexico and his native Holland. The Greek squad and tradition screams 4-5-1 but the new broom may be looking for something more daring. If tradition holds, the Huuhkajat will need to be patient. If the new broom sweeps in changes, those big defenders will struggle against the pace of Pukki, Tuominen and Lappalainen, it could be a fun old night.
Referee: Juan Martinez (Spain) – La Liga ref with 3 red cards in his last 50 games. While he doesn’t tend to punish harshly, he doesn’t exactly let the game flow. Prepare to hear the whistle for the slightest contact, dives and theatrics.
Previous: The last time these two teams met Finland won their Nations League Group, with a 1-0 defeat, which was odd.
P:16 W:5 D:3 L:8 GF:20 GA:27