UEFA Nations League B, Group 4 – 3.9.2020
On Thursday evening Markku Kanerva’s Huuhkajat return to action for the first time in ten months to face Wales. The game will take place at the Olympiastadion for the first time in 5 years though it will be a quiet homecoming, with no crowd in the stands. Kick off is 21:45 Finland time.
Finland: A trio of US based players, Lassi Lappalainen, Robin Lod and Jukka Raitala haven’t travelled, Paulis Arajuuri pulled up in training and left the squad to recover, while in-form Häcken centre back Joona Toivio isn’t included leaving Finland with a tough choice at centre back. The more experienced Juhani Ojala and Sauli Väisänen are yet to start their seasons while the younger Daniel O’Shaugnessy and Leo Väisänen are both playing regularly in Allsvenskan and Veikkausliiga respectively. Finland are spoilt for choice at full back, though first choice Jere Uronen and Albin Granlund are both playing regularly. In the middle of the park Glen Kamara is playing well and Tim Sparv looks to have recovered from injury in time to feature, while up top Joel Pohjanpalo is back and able to partner up with Teemu Pukki. Without Lappalainen and with Pyry Soiri out of form, there will be an interesting choice on the flanks, Robert Taylor is likely to take the right wing, but on the left Rasmus Karjalainen or Jasse Tuominen could drop back to do a job or Kanerva could hand debuts to Veikkausliiga starlets Ilmari Niskanen or Albion Ademi. Either way expect the classic Kanerva 4-4-2, blocking up the middle and breaking at pace.
Wales: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Ashley Williams (Bristol City) and Tyler Roberts (Leeds Utd) have all left the squad injured, Gareth Bale has not trained with Real Madrid since the close of last season and has been out of favor at the Bérnabeu since a public transfer dispute that began last season. Ryan Giggs was already without established players like Sam Vokes, Joe Allen (both Stoke City), Neil Taylor (Aston Villa) and Chris Mepham (Brentford) leaving the Dragons with four uncapped youngsters in the squad. Wales have depth in the full back area but at centre back they will likely pair Luton Town’s Tom Lockyer with veteran Chris Gunter, who is currently without a club. In the middle of the park Manchester Utd’s Daniel James is likely to provide much of the attacking threat, though Chelsea and Liverpool prospects Ethan Ampadu and Harry Wilson have obvious talent, but little top level experience. Cardiff City’s burly forward Kieffer Moore is likely to lead the line, tonight perhaps more than ever though Wales’ threat will come down to the mercurial talents and tactical deployment of Bale, Kanerva’s inclusion of Nikolai Alho for the first time in five years may simply be to provide pacy cover for Granlund down the Welsh left. Expect a 4-2-3-1 with pressure down the flanks and in the channels.
Previous: Riku Riski grabbed a 90th minute equalizer the last time these two teams met back in 2013, in a game that ended 1-1 in Cardiff.
P:12, W:4, D:4, L:4, GF:12 , GA:17
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Germany) – 36 year old whistler with international and champs league experience with 8 reds in his last 50 games, you might say he’s a stickler for the rules.
Broadcast: Live on viafree in Finland, studio starts at 21:00 and on S4C or Sky Sports in the UK.