On Friday evening Markku Kanerva and his Euro-squad will look to put disagreements and the disappointing defeat to Sweden behind them as they take on southern Neighbours Estonia in Helsinki in front of a limited crowd. Kick-off is 19:00 Finland time.
Huuhkajat: Following the announced squad on Tuesday, Sauli Väisänen has withdrawn from the squad with injury, with Niko Hämäläinen being called up in his stead. The tie will likely be too soon for Teemu Pukki, still carrying a knock that has seen him miss 5 weeks of football thus far, while there are also doubts around Joel Pohjanpalo. Against Sweden it was clear many players were benefiting from the extra minutes so Rive will hope Tim Sparv, Jere Uronen and Fredrik Jensen will get minutes to work on their sharpness. Also given that Pyry Soiri has yet to play a full 90 minutes as a wing back, he may be involved in this capacity. Kanerva will undoubtedly stick with three at the back, and this would be a good opportunity to test out the starting back line, now that Joona Toivio has joined the squad. Toivio scored in the penalty shoot out of the Swedish Cup final on Sunday, though it wasn’t enough for his Hacken side. As with the Sweden game, expect a raft of substitutions and a great deal of caution, the Huuhkajat will want to leave with a win, but all eyes are firmly on Denmark in a week’s time.
Estonia: Estonia are currently in the midst of a Baltic Cup, having beaten Lithuania 1-0 on Wednesday night thanks to former Lahti forward Henri Anier, and about to face Latvia next Thursday. Wednesday’s win was Estonia’s first in 2 years, with their previous win coming against Gibraltar in March 2019. The “Blue Shirts” most often deploy a 5-4-1 which might prove an interesting problem for Kanerva’s side, which is usually set up to defend deep, keep the ball at the back and counter. It’s likely that the Estonians will try the same hoping that Anier or aging maestro Konstantin Vassiljev can conjure something surprising. Conditions in Helsinki will be hot and sunny, as both teams have more important games coming up and a preference for the counter attack, we may be in for a slow burn.
Previous: The last time these two teams met was in similar heat, in Doha. On that day a scratch side from Finland lost 2-1, with Rasmus Karjalainen scoring the only goal of his Huuhkaja career to date.
Referee: Jørgen Burchardt (Denmark) – Europa League level whistler who plies his trade in the SuperLiga and had a habit of sending Midtjylland players off (though never our Tim). Six reds in the last 50, with an average of 4 yellows a game suggests he’s one of the more lenient refs out there.
Broadcast: Live on ViaPlay, who currently have a promotion running to sing up for free for two weeks to watch the Finland warm up games, but you need to create an account to get the game.