Match Preview: Finland vs Rep. of Ireland (a)

UEFA Nations League B, Group 4 – 6.9.2020

On Sunday evening, Finland visit the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in their second match of this seasons UEFA Nations League. With both sides disappointed with their opening match, the Huuhkajat will need to raise their game to return home with points. Kick off is 19:00, Finland time.

Finland: Although obviously disappointed, Kanerva and some senior players referenced the many positives of the performance after the defeat to Wales. Whether that translates to a tactical change remains to be seen, Kanerva mentioned one or two “knocks” following Thursday night. Joni Kauko was the only player embroiled in a scuffle against Wales, though it was noticeable that captain Tim Sparv was returning after a long injury lay-off. Albin Granlund and Robert Taylor should feature against Ireland and with the boss also mentioning the need to create more chances a return to the familiar 4-4-2 is likely. Hopefully Taylor and Soiri down the flanks for pace, the main questions who will be partnering Glen Kamara in midfield and Juhani Ojala at centre back. 

Republic of Ireland: New Ireland manager Stephen Kenny was talking up the importance of “continuity” in his press conference. That focus and the general understanding that the former under 21 manager is set to re-shape Ireland after the second Mick McCarty era, suggests he’ll be sticking with the 4-3-3 and youthful side that struggled to a 1-1 draw away in Bulgaria. Then, a 93rd minute Shane Duffy header saved a point for Kenny, though Teemu Pukki’s understudy at Norwich Adam Idah struggled to lead the line. Ireland’s starting 11 will however be mostly full of premier league players. Aaron Connelly up top plies his trade at Brighton, James McCarthy plays regularly at Crystal Palace and there are four Sheffield United players in the squad. Ireland will look to play through the middle or out wide to advancing full backs, Enda Stevens (Sheff Utd.) and Matt Doherty (Spurs). This however leaves them vulnerable to the counter where physical centre backs Duffy and John Egan are not the quickest.

Previous: Finland have never beaten the Republic, their last encounter was a 3-0 defeat in Helsinki in 2002, the highlight thus far a Vesa Tauriainen screamer back in 1990.

P:5, W:0, D:2, L:3, GF:2, GA:11

Referee: Fabio Maresca, Italy: 39 year old whistler who made the step up to Serie A back in 2017 and is taking charge of his first full international on the pitch tonight.

Broadcast: Live on Viafree, coverage starting at 18:00 

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