It’s the biggest game in the history of the Finnish National team. A win for the Huuhkajat against lowly Liechtenstein and Finland will qualify for Euro 2020, hosted in, well all over, Europe. While two quarters of the Finnish Football Show team were in the Telia 5G Areena in Helsinki to witness history in the making, this quarter was on a work trip to Spain, so watched it in a bar in Valencia!
It was a game where one team had most possession and tried to break down a stubborn, defensive formation of 6-4-0. In recent years, Finland have been that defensive team but not anymore. This time Finland’s Eagle Owls were on top from minute 1 to minute 90. Continuing the form they have displayed against all teams in 2019, other than Italy, Finland played a high-pressing game from start to Finnish (sorry!)
It’s difficult to pick out individuals. Although Teemu Pukki (who else?) will get the headlines for two goals and one assist, for Jasse Tuominen, this continues to be a team that plays as a team. From my seat, Pyry Soiri provided real threat from the left wing every time he had the ball, Glen Kamara and Tim Sparv dominated the midfield and the entire defence, marshalled by Paulus Arajuuri, worked as one – not for the first time this year. Truly, the success of this team is built on the foundations of this defence.
What does this mean for Finland? Well, Finland (as a country) loves to get behind one of its teams when they qualify for a major competition, so EVERYONE will be looking forward to summer 2020. The long-suffering fans on the Pohjoiskaarre (the Curva Nord of Helsinki) who were as impressive as the team the support, creating an incredible noise all game, exploded at the end of the game like the fireworks illuminating the sky above their heads. The pitch invasion at the end continued of the celebrations and cemented the bond between players and fans, that has developed over the past few years.
Then just look at the players/management team: manager Markku Kanerva seemed stunned and close to tears; Gunnar Ylijärvi, who was the Huuhkajat kitman for 60 years, celebrated his 80th birthday on the pitch at the end of the game; Arajuuri, looking like a comic-book hero, dripping blood from his nose down his shirt while he screamed with joy; Sparv whose initial words “* Oi oi oi, uskomatonta!” summed-up the thoughts of a nation; Pukki who ‘has not words’; and goalkeeper, Lukas Hradecky who was moved to sing ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the top of his voice while holding a microphone. Pure ecstasy engraved on all their faces.
* translation ‘oh oh oh, unbelievable’
There will be more to follow on this and the upcoming game away to Greece. Finnish Football Show 26 will be recorded live next week https://explorefinland.podbean.com/ and we will hear tales from Mark H & Keke on just how hard they celebrated this moment in time.
– Mark W