Match Report: Fun in the sun

Finland 1-1 Iceland, International friendly

As winter comes to an end across Scandinavia, it’s quite common for Finns to book up a winter break in southern Spain to change the scenery and recharge the batteries. Markku Kanerva and his charges took that to another level during a Saturday afternoon stroll with Iceland in Murcia.

Handing debuts to Miro Tenho and Miska Ylitolva and offering starting berths to Ben Källman, Ilmari Niskanen, Jesse Joronen and a long awaited return for Sauli Väisänen, this was a much changed Finland side.

In a game that was often lacking cutting edge, Teemu Pukki showed his on 12 minuted latching on to a lovely Niskanen through ball, before dummying a defender, and slotting home past a bewildered Runar Runarsson in the Iceland goal. Iceland leveled through Birkir Bjarnasson on 38 minutes after Rasmus Schüller was robbed in possession on the edge of the Finland box and failed to track the Denispor midfielder who fired a low drive past Jesse Joronen from the edge of the box.

Both sides created chances, Iceland mainly through long distance shooting, Finland mainly after first team regulars we’re brought on, but there were very few clear cut chances. At the death, another debutant Mikko Soisalo, whipped in a cross for fellow substitute Joel Pohjanpalo, who put his diving header past the keeper, only for a defender to hook it over the bar in the nick of time. For his part, Jesse Joronen needed to turn away a couple of stinging drives from distance, but in truth most were routine.

As an introduction to the national stage Tenho and Soisalo impressed, there is clearly a player in young Ylitolva, his pace and strength sre already impressive at 17. Also impressive was Niskanen, who’s passing and crossing really gave Finland something extra, but being shoe-horned into that wing-back role leaves some hairy moments defensively. As a competitive fixture though Finland should look at this as a missed opportunity particularly with a FIFA rankings update coming next Thursday. This young Iceland team is clearly in transition and were defensively disorganized and weak. The Huuhkajat didn’t test them enough. Next up is a defensively solid Slovakia, who are reeling from a 2-0 defeat in Oslo on Friday. The only question will be if the Huuhkajat will turn up in boots or sandles.

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