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

UEFA Nations League B, Group 4 – 14.10.2020

On Wednesday evening, Finland round off this international break by hosting an out-of-sorts Ireland side and with a real possibility of ending the day top of the group. Once again a small, physically-distanced crowd will be in attendance and Kanerva’s men have form and fitness on their side. Kick off is 19:00.

Finland: Markku Kanerva’s biggest injury concern after Bulgaria will be his own headache of choosing between the back three that did well in Dublin a month ago, of the clearly still effective 4-4-2 that took care of Bulgaria at the weekend. With Arajuuri and Toivio looking stable and Tim Sparv looking sharp again in the middle the smart money is on the latter. Up top there’s an interesting choice, Joel Pohjanpalo has had a bit of a tough time in recent Finland performances and it was Robert Taylor playing centrally that caused the most problems for the Irish in the previous meeting. Jolle could take a place on the bench, with the impressive Fredrik Jensen joining the side to bolster the midfield, with either him or Taylor taking the “Jasse Tuominen” role of sitting just behind Pukki and harrying opposition defenders. Finland’s pace down the flanks looked dangerous on Sunday and that will be the key again, as the visiting Irish side is low on pace at the back. 

Republic of Ireland: The pressure on Steve Kenny is perhaps a little unfair, given that six days ago they lost out to Slovakia only on penalties and their weekend draw with Wales was, in part, due to a group of 8 self-isolating players due to a suspected case of COVID. By then, the squad was already without experienced players David McGoldrick (Sheff Utd), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Harry Arter (Nott’m Forest) and Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), while against Wales James McClean was sent off, so will be suspended. Provided the new infection isn’t a first team regular, Finland can expect much the same that turned out at the Aviva Stadium a month ago. A back four with a fair amount of brawn, a central midfield looking to disrupt and niggle, particularly against the likes of Robert Taylor, with either Shane Long (Southampton, 3 games, 0 goals this season) or Adam Idah (Norwich, 4 games, 1 goal) up top on their own. The key for Finland is likely to be muzzling Newcastle Utd’s Jeff Hendrick in the middle of the pitch and ensuring Burnley’s tricky winger Robbie Brady doesn’t get in behind our full backs. 

Previous: First ever win against Ireland last time out, the highlight of a meagre history against Na buachaillí i nglas.

P:6, W:1, D:2, L:3, GF:3, GA:11

Referee: Lionel Tschudi (SUI) – 31 year old,  Swiss whistler with Europa League level experience. 4 reds in his last 50 games, he’s another milder ref. 

Broadcast: A domestic upgrade puts this game live on Nelonen (the Bulgaria game was on JIM), with live streaming online with Ruutu, though this service has seen some pretty significant performance issues, be warned. The studio starts at 18:00.

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