On Wednesday night Finland entertain a Wales side that proved to be a thorn in Markku Kanerva’s side in last season’s Nations League campaign. Both teams will be looking to experiment in a friendly that preceeds a double-header of World Cup qualifiers. Kick off is at 19.00 at a limited capacity Olympiastadion.
Audio Match Preview: Written by Mark H, read by Mark W
Squad: With a must-win game against Kazakhstan coming up in 3 days and a very tough ask away to France 3 days after that, Markku Kanerva will likely be looking to the next generation to take the pitch. Tim Sparv is a doubt after he limped off as HJK lost to Fenerbache last week, Robin Lod is out injured, Joni Kauko is not match fit so also didn’t make the squad, while top flight players such as Teemu Pukki and Lukas Hradecky will have their clubs looking on, to make sure they don’t play three games in a week. With experimentation in mind Carljohan Eriksson has joined up with the Huuhkajat after a good run of form with Mjällby and may split the 90 minutes with Jesse Joronen. Glen Kamara will be suspended for the Kazakhstan game so is likely to be one of few regulars in the side. With plenty of young talent in the squad, players who warmed the bench at the Euros should get a run out and hopefully we’ll see some new faces; there’s a lot of buzz around Urho Nissilä and Jasin Assehnoun in particular. It will be 5-3-2, but if the likes of Valakari, Taylor or Jensen are involved for the whole game, we may see a bit more adventure in Finland’s approach.
Wales: The Dragons have been hit by a spate of injuries leading up to the clash. Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, Joe Rodon (Tottenham), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Neco William’s (Liverpool) and George Thomas (QPR) are all out. Back up ‘keeper Adam Davies tested positive for Covid-19, striker Keifer Moore has been isolated as a close contact, both are out of the squad. One of the replacements Brandon Cooper (Swansea) along with Leeds forward Tyler Roberts and Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea) did not register in time to play for Wales’s upcoming game against Belarus, so are likely to start. As two of Moore’s six international goals have come against Finland, his absence will be a welcome relief. It’s also likely that Robert Page will not want to risk the likes of Gareth Bale or Dan James as all eyes will be on improving their 3rd place position in Group E in the games that follow. Wales were thumped out of the Euros 4-0 by Denmark, and at the tournament put our a different system for each game, making them tough to predict. When in doubt or away from home, Page has usually opted for a 4-5-1, using Joe Allen or Jonny Williams as a deep playmaker. Roberts is a tricky forward with bags of pace who could cause problems at the back but given the difficult build-up, importance of the games that follow and track record of Wales on the road, Page will be looking for a draw or to nick a win.
Previous: last time out, an early Jere Uronen red card really derailed Finland’s bid to reach the A league. A 3-1 defeat in Cardiff was somehow less painful than the 1-0 robbery, in Helsinki, in September 2020. Rive will be looking to settle the score.
P:14, W:4, D:4, L:6, GF:13, GA:21
Broadcast: live on ViaSport Jalkapallo (note, not ViaSport Football) studio starts at 18:30.
Predictions from FFS…tradamous
(as is Nostradamous, get it?!)
Keke – I’m looking forward to seeing some of our Finnish young guns playing with some freedom that this friendly fixture should give. I expect the likes of Valakari, Taylor and Ivanov to feature heavily and with our arch nemesis Moore out I’m confident that we can emerge victorious. 2-0 win for Huuhkajat
Mark H – I’m feeling bullish. I think our B team will be positive and creative, much as they were against France last year, Wales seem like a team that will be distracted and down on their luck, I’m going 2-0 win.
Mark W – Having read Mark’s preview, I’m up for this. Wales are weakened, while the Huuhkajat reserves beat Frannce 2-0 in 2020. 3-1 win.
Rich – A tricky match to call with both sides looking beyond the game already. No Moore for Wales should make life easier for Finland, who’ll hope the fringe players step up like they did in Paris. 1-0 Finland.