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Qualified with the manner, Finland will face heavy
Little Thumb of Euro 2020 in the company of North Macedonia, Finland was invited to the play-offs after winning first place in its League of Nations group (League C). But she did not need to go through that since she qualified for her very first international competition by finishing in second place in group J of the qualifiers (6V, 4D), behind Italy but ahead of Greece, European champion 2004, Bosnia Herzegovina and Armenia, rather to their advantage in the League of Nations in recent years, and Liechtenstein. Returned to group B of this European Championship, the Huuhkajat, literally the “Owls Grand-Dukes”, will have a lot to do. They will start on June 12 against Denmark in Copenhagen, then face Russia in St. Petersburg (06/16). It is in the late Leningrad that they will end their group stage against the formidable Belgium (21/06).
The eleven type:
In the field, the 5-3-2 was favored during the last outings of the selection. The indestructible Lukas Hradecky ensures in the goal, protected by three experienced central: Paulus Arajuuri (Pafos, Cyprus), Joona Toivio (Häcken, Sweden), and Jukka Raitala (Minnesota United, USA), who also plays as a left-back. The pistons are moving. In the midfield, Tim Sparv, the captain, acts as a control tower. And we no longer present Glen Kamara, dazzling Scottish champion with the Rangers, ball scraper capable of projecting himself towards the opposing surface. In front, if he is spared from injuries, Joel Pohjanpalo leaves with a head start for the position of second striker. On loan from Bayer to Union Berlin, the 26-year-old striker contributed to the successful surprise season of the Bundesliga, with 6 goals in 20 matches. If he finished the season on one leg with Norwich, Teemu Pukki remains the lethal weapon of this eleven.
Two generations, a history of transmission
We will discuss the character a little below, but Finland is above all a strong bond between the manager and his players. It’s very simple, all over thirty (there are ten of them), from goalkeepers Lukas Hradecky, Anssi Jaakkola or Niki Mäenpää, to defenders Joona Toivio, Paulus Arajuuri, Jukka Raitala and Juhani Ojala, through midfielders Joni Kauko and Tim Sparv, up to star striker Teemu Pukki, were started by Markku Kanerva, former manager of the Espoirs (2004-2010) and now head of the A (since 2016). It is this backbone of elders that guides the young shoots towards a goal: to avoid the break observed in Iceland, where the aging victorious generation does not yet seem to have found a succession.
In Finland, as elsewhere, the youth is particularly visible in front. Onni Valakari, a 21-year-old attacking midfielder, has scored 12 goals in 25 Cypriot Premier Division appearances this season (Pafos). Great hope of Finnish football, left winger Lassi Lappalainen, 22, has been playing for two seasons in Montreal. Owned by Bologna, he played under Thierry Henry and scored 6 goals in 16 MLS matches last year. In England since she was 13, Marcus Forss makes him look like a will-o’-the-wisp. The 21-year-old striker, owned by Brentford until June 2026, has scored 8 goals in 40 short Championship appearances this season and is still in the race for his Premier League rise.
Finns export a little more
In Finland, players ready to export are still rare. There, football does not bring in as much as a stable job and it is often the second option chosen by young Finns, recently explained to us Mika Scoarnec, Franco-Finnish who plays in Salo. However, if this is not necessarily a guarantee of success, of the 26 players selected for the Euro, only midfielder Daniel O’Shaugnessy (HJK) and left winger called for the first time Jasin Assehnoun (FC Lahti ) evolve across the country. Esbjerg, Paphos, Leverkusen, Genk, Rangers, Augsburg, Union Berlin, Norwich, are the flagship destinations of players called under the Finnish colors.
Teemu Pukki called his own
It’s impossible to talk about Finland without talking about their flagship striker, Teemu Pukki. The 31-year-old center-forward has been enjoying Norwich since 2018. A rise in the Premier League and a descent in stride. The Canaries are on the rise since they have this season again finished at the top of the Championship, thanks in particular to the 26 goals scored by Pukki, in 41 matches played. During the qualifying campaign for the Euro, it was he who stood out. In ten matches, he has simply scored 10 of his team’s 16 goals and delivered 2 assists. If Finland is steeped in qualities, it is nonetheless inexperienced in the final stages. Despite convincing successes in France and Bulgaria last November, during the qualifying campaign, the Hiboux Grand-Ducs often experienced difficulties away from home (defeats in Italy, Bosnia Herzegovina and Greece). In June, they will have the difficult task of facing Denmark and Russia on their home soil and will finish facing number 1 in the FIFA rankings. Just that.
Markku Kanerva, the Finnish Gérard Klein:
Former Finnish teacher and international defender, Markku Kanerva, 56, began his coaching career in 2001 as an assistant at Helsinki JK, which had seen him flourish as a footballer. 20 years later, he is at the head of the selection for his country. Kanerva, it’s a long career as a coach. First among the Finnish Hopes (2004-2010), then as assistant to Mixu Paatelainen, at the head of the A from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, the one nicknamed “Rive” took the plunge and took the reins of the selection. Since then, the Scandinavians have moved from League C to League B for their first appearance in the UEFA Nations League and on November 15, 2019, thanks to their victory against Liechtenstein (3-0), they qualified for their first Europe championship. A year later, in a friendly, Kanerva’s troops even won a prestigious victory against the French World Champions in Saint-Denis (0-2). This follower of 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 has a record of 23 wins, 7 draws and 15 losses in 45 matches at the head of the selection.
Markku Kanerva and Tim Sparv with the Finnish Hopes in 2009
Markku Kanerva and Tim Sparv with the Finnish A selection in 2019
Lukas Hradecky, Bayer’s guardian angel
In the land of legend Jari Litmanen, a striker with the pedigree of Teemu Pukki will always come before a goalkeeper high in the hierarchy. However, Lukas Hradecky will undoubtedly be one of Finland’s major assets at the Euro. Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper, 3rd best defense in the Bundesliga, behind Leipzig and Wolfsburg, Lukas Hradecky has conceded 26 goals in 28 matches played this season. Author of 9 clean sheets, the goalkeeper of Slovak origin, born in Bratislava to a professional volleyball father who moved to Finland when he was one year old, is one of the sure values of the German championship in this position. Clever with his right foot, brother of Tomas and Matej Hradecky, also tall, born and raised on football in Turku, Finland, Lukas Hradecky, 1m92 at 31, was the successor to the famous Jussi Jääskeläinen. He has 64 caps since May 21, 2010 (69 goals conceded, 25 clean sheets).
The pre-list of 26 players (final list unveiled on June 1):
Guardians: Lukas Hradecky (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Jesse Joronen (Brescia Calcio), Anssi Jaakkola (Bristol Rovers).
Defenders: Juhani Ojala (Vejle Boldklub), Leo Väisänen (Elfsborg fB), Sauli Väisänen (Chievo Verona), Paulus Arajuuri (Paphos FC), Daniel O’Shaugnessy (HJK), Robert Ivanov (Warta Poznan), Albin Granlund) (Stal Miel Poznan), Albin Granlund) (Stal Miel Jere Uronen (KRC Genk), Nicholas Hämäläinen (Queens Park Rangers), Nikolai Alho (MTK Budapest).
Environments : Tim Sparv (AE Larisa), Glen Kamara (Glasgow Rangers), Joni Kauko (Esbjerg fB), Onni Valakari (Paphos FC), Rasmus Schüller (Djurgårdens ZEL), Thomas Lam (PEC), Fredrik Jensen (FC Augsburg).
Attackers: Pyry Soiri (Esbjerg fB), Joel Pohjanpalo (1.FC Union Berlin), Lassi Lappalainen (CF Montreal), Marcus Forss (Brentford FC), Jasin Assehnoun (FC Lahti), Teemu Pukki (Norwich City).