Flying Finns will not be easily grounded in Euros
EURO 2020 GROUP B
ICELAND lit up Euro 2016, reaching the quarter-finals of their first major tournament, and this summer’s debutants Finland will be hoping to make a similar impact. The Finns sealed qualification with a 3-0 home victory over Liechtenstein in November 2019 – part of a remarkable run of 11 wins to nil in 14 fixtures on their own patch. They extended that proud defensive record in last year’s Nations League, conceding just one goal in home and away wins over Bulgaria and Ireland. Even world champions France couldn’t find a way past Markku Kanerva’s men, who landed an 18-1 shock by beating Les Bleus 2-0 in Paris in a friendly last November. Finland are a similar price to top Group B but their performances over the past couple of years suggest they can make things difficult for their section rivals. Their victory over France was all the more impressive given that Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky was rested and Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, scorer of ten of their 16 goals in Euro 2020 qualifying, only came off the bench for the last ten minutes. Hradecky and Pukki, if fully recovered from an ankle injury, provide Finland with star quality at either end of the pitch but the majority of their squad members play their club football in Europe’s less distinguished leagues. Home advantage has been a big factor in their recent progress so their task is made tougher by the fact that they effectively face away games against Denmark and Russia in Group B. Still, having beaten the world champions in their own backyard, the Finns are unlikely to be overawed by trips to Copenhagen and St Petersburg.