Finland will compete at a major international tournament for the first time in their history at Euro 2020 this summer.
Norwich’s Teemu Pukki inspired the country to qualification, scoring 10 goals in their group to finish second behind Italy, edging out the likes of Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia and Liechtenstein.
They have been handed a tricky group, with world No 1 ranked side Belgium joined by Russia and rivals Denmark, however, if Pukki can sustain his sensational club form, having scored 26 goals as the Canaries secured promotion back to the Premier League, they could still pose a threat.
“There’s a party for sure,” Pukki said after securing qualification in 2019. “We had some moments of joy, we were celebrating what we had achieved. The coach is wet, that is something we do. He deserved it. Many of us have been with him since the under-21s and he knows how to make us play our best football.”
It is not solely Pukki on who Finland will be relying, though, with Rangers’ Glen Kamara and Brentford’s Marcus Forss also included in Markku Kanerva’s provisional 26-man squad, while Bayer Leverkusen’s Lukáš Hrádecký is an established goalkeeper at European level.
Making it out of the group stage would be a remarkable feat and their participation will be celebrated widely regardless of their results, however, that is not to say they should be taken lightly or cannot mark their debut with an unlikely upset.
Here is everything you need to know:
12/06/21 Denmark vs Finland 17:00
16/06/21 Finland vs Russia 14:00
21/06/21 Finland vs Belgium 20:00
Goalkeepers: Lukas Hradecky (Leverkusen), Anssi Jaakkola (Bristol Rovers), Jesse Joronen (Brescia).
Defenders: Paulus Arajuuri (Pafos), Robert Ivanov (Warta Poznań), Thomas Lam (Zwolle), Daniel O’Shaughnessy (HJK Helsinki), Jukka Raitala (Minnesota United), Joona Toivio (Häcken), Jere Uronen (Genk), Leo Väisänen (Elfsborg), Sauli Väisänen (Chievo).
Midfielders: Nikolai Alho (MTK Budapest), Fredrik Jensen (Augsburg), Glen Kamara (Rangers), Joni Kauko (Esbjerg), Robin Lod (Minnesota United), Rasmus Schüller (Djurgården), Pyry Soiri (Esbjerg), Tim Sparv (Larissa), Robert Taylor (Brann), Onni Valakari (Pafos).
Forwards: Marcus Forss (Brentford), Lassi Lappalainen (Montréal), Joel Pohjanpalo (Union Berlin), Teemu Pukki (Norwich).
Ones to watch
Star – Teemu Pukki: It is no secret that Pukki will provide Finland’s deadliest threat, nor is it extreme to claim that if he fails to perform, their hopes are virtually obsolete. He has enjoyed a prolific season in the Championship, spearheading a free-spirited Norwich side, and must carry that momentum into the campaign.
Breakout talent – Onni Valakari: The 21-year-old midfielder may not be playing in the most competitive league, but has scored 13 times in 35 appearances for Pafos in the Cypriot first division and marked his international debut with a goal against world champions France last November.
Odds to win
Unfortunately, in a tricky group, the quality of their opponents’ squads should tell. It is not to say Finland cannot pick up any points, but that a place in the knockout stages might prove a step too far. Group stage exit.
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