Friday, June 29, 2012

Veikkausliiga round 14 - Inter struggle again

Another round of top division fixtures, another set of results that see the top two drop points - this time, champions HJK had to come back from 2-0 away to bottom club Jaro to snatch a point, while Inter Turku shipped four goals without reply at MYPA.

 Juho Makela celebrates his goal

HJK are now without a win in their last three games, yet still manage to hold a two point lead at the top of the table, despite having played a game more than their nearest rivals. The second placed team is now IFK Mariehamn, who beat Haka 1-0. Inter have dropped to third, after a surprising loss. Four goals, four different scorers, and the gap between the two clubs is now just three points.

Europa League bound KuPS now prop up the division, with their recent improvement in form coming to a halt with a 3-0 defeat to TPS (highlights below). JJK lost their fourth game in a row, a 1-0 defeat at home to Honka leaves them ninth. The day's other result was Lahti 1-0 VPS.

TPS 3-0 KuPS

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Llanelli v KuPS - Europa League

As some of you may have noticed, there is a very slight bias towards KuPS on this site... The aim is to remain objective, and I hope to bring more detailed pieces in the future. As part of this, I will be attending the upcoming Europa League qualifier second leg between Llanelli AFC and KuPS, and writing a couple of pieces about it afterwards.

If you are looking to come to the match, I do have 2 spaces in the car from London to Llanelli, contact via Twitter or Facebook if interested. Tickets are available as below, and go on sale from Monday 2nd July. See you there!

UEFA Europa League first qualifying round (second leg)

Thursday 12th July 2012
Kick-off 6.30pm

Llanelli AFC v Kuopion Palloseura (KuPS)

Venue: Stebonheath Park, Llanelli

Adults £10, OAPs/students/under 16s £5

For tickets and information, call 01554 758018    

Monday, June 25, 2012

Veikkausliiga week 13 - upside down

Back from the midsummer break, the league resumed on Monday evening with a full round of fixtures, but with some more surprising results...

Not one team in the top seven won their match, and all three bottom clubs won. The teams chasing the title were both held, with HJK drawing a blank at home to TPS, and Inter Turku also dropping points at home to VPS, with Inter equalising with just thirteen minutes to go.

Bottom club Jaro picked up another win over MYPA, a first half goal from Tahvanainen sealing the points. KuPS also secured three points with two second half goals at home to IFK.

 Chris James celebrates his goal against Mariehamn (via Savon Sanomat)

The day's other fixtures saw Honka beat Lahti 3-2, and Haka inflicting another defeat on JJK, with Irishman Shane Robinson bagging a hat-trick. JJK have now lost three games in a row, and are now only five points off the bottom.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Veikkausliiga matchday 13 - Hyvää juhannus

It's Midsummer this weekend. According to my live-in Finn, it's the biggest national holiday in Finland (other than Christmas), and will see hundreds of thousands leave their bases to go to their summer cottages... With it, top flight football this weekend moves to Monday, and a full round of games with plenty to play for.

 Finns celebrate Juhannus

Leaders HJK will be looking to bounce back from their surprise midweek defeat with a home game against TPS. HJK have a two point lead over Inter having played a game more, and will want to get back to winning ways after losing to IFK. Inter are also at home, welcoming fourth place VPS to Turku.

Two clubs at the bottom are in danger of losing touch with the main pack. Both KuPS and Jaro are on nine points, with KuPS ahead on goal difference. KuPS will be entertaining IFK Mariehamn in Kuopio, and Jaro are at home to MYPA. Jaro have taken four points from their last two games, and will be hoping to capitalise on the Europa League draw possibly distracting KuPS.

The other two matches provide Honka vs Lahti in Espoo; and Haka will be trying to make it two wins out of two at home to out-of-form JJK. Hopefully the players won't all be suffering hangovers and make it another gripping round of games!


As stated within the blog, the Europa League draw (for the first and second qualifying rounds) will be held on Monday - analysis of fixtures will be here soon! To read the original preview, click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Carl Jenkinson - stick or twist?

Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson is at something of a crossroads in his young footballing career. A year after his big move from Charlton, there have been several noises made about whether he will declare a full desire to play for England at full international level. Despite his appearances at England U-17, and Finland's U-19 and U-21 teams, it's believed that he wants to represent England at senior level.

Jenkinson trains with Finland

With a Finnish mother (Swedish-speaking), of course he is eligible for both - but would he risk a potential career with the Finns for the prospect of England? England seem to have a vast reserve of right-backs these days, with Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly in contention, as well as Micah Richards, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones with recent international appearances. Jenkinson isn't even a regular starter, being the understudy to France's superb Bacary Sagna.

The likely option would need to be a loan move to a top club - but he'd need a monumental season, like Walker had in 2011/12 when he was voted young player of the year. There is potential there, but he'd need to take huge leaps to get into Roy Hodgson's plans. He's a good crosser of the ball, maybe don't rule out a right-sided midfield role.

If he were to go down the Finnish route, perhaps he would have more of a chance. Exposure to Premier League and Champions League (he played four games in Europe last season) would enhance his profile and experience, while benefitting from learning from one of Europe's best right backs. Of course he wouldn't expect to walk into the Finnish defence either, with Petri Pasanen and Ari Nyman already there.

Carl in his old bedroom

My prediction? I have a feeling he'll turn his back on Finland in the hope he'll get a shot with England. It's not like he grew up in Finland, he's an Essex boy really. But he'll need to get himself a good run with the Gunners (or on loan) to have a decent shot with either. If it's true that he rejected a call-up for last year's Finland match against San Marino, that may already be the answer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Veikkausliiga week 11 review - Jaro close the gap

This was the first full weekend of fixtures since the international break, and it looks like some teams found it easier to hit their stride than others. While there was a story at the top, with Inter losing away to Honka, and giving the advantage back to HJK; the real news was at the bottom.

Jaro managed only their second win of the season away to TPS, in an eventful match that saw ten bookings. A fantastic late free kick by Mattias Wargh (clip below) secured the points for the away team, who are now only a point behind Haka and KuPS.

Bend it like Wargh

KuPS were hoping for a revival after last week's surprising 5-1 win over JJK, but came back down to earth with a 1-2 home defeat to Lahti. Haka also remain near the foot of the table losing 1-0 at home to VPS.

HJK gave JJK another bad home day with a 3-0 win, and they now have a three point lead over Inter, who lost 2-1 at Honka. Inter still have a game in hand however, and will hope to get back on track with a home game over bottom club Jaro on Tuesday. The battle between third (IFK) and fourth (MYPA) ended up as a 0-0 draw in front of 1431 lucky people in Mariehamm.

The HJK fans go wild

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Veikkausliiga preview: Tight at the top

This weekend sees a full round of fixtures, spread over Saturday and Sunday. The matches should be over in time to see the finale of Euro 2012 groups A and B, convenient timing indeed.

The big match on Saturday appears to be at Jyväskylä where champions HJK visit JJK, the home team fresh from a 5-1 home defeat to KuPS on Monday evening. HJK are currently second from Inter (on goal difference), but having played a game more. Inter are also away, to ninth place Honka. Inter will hope for goals from Mika Ojala, who has scored five goals in his last seven games.

IFK will be hoping to keep pace with the leaders with a home match over MYPA, while KuPS will try for a second straight win, with Lahti the visitors to Kuopio.

Bottom club Jaro visit TPS on Saturday, and Haka's home game with VPS rounds off the weekend's fixtures.

There will be a further matchday in midweek, so ETS will be bringing you the results, big stories and a midweek preview on Monday!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Finns in Europe - the Europa League draw

Qualifying for Europe from a summer league has pros and cons - you're fresher than some other rivals, especially in the earliest qualifying rounds. But in the event of mass turnover of players, it's a reward for a league finish of over six months ago where several of the stars may have moved on.

 Cutbacks meant that the trophy was used to hold the paperwork

That is the case this year - with the draw for the first and second qualifying rounds taking place on June 25th, with the games starting in July. Three teams from Veikkausliiga will be in the hat for the first round (KuPS and MYPA seeded, JJK unseeded), to be joined by Inter Turku in round two.

As is now customary, even teams in the early stages have some good recent European pedigree, first round participants include Twente, Lech Poznan and Rosenborg. Big teams are also found in round two in the shape of Champions League quarter-finalists APOEL and former European champions Red Star Belgrade.

Will the Finns make inroads? The random draw could be kind, but it's hard to see them getting too far. KuPS are struggling domestically, and only qualified as cup runners-up to HJK. JJK got tonked 1-5 at home to KuPS this week, while MYPA sneaked in via the fair play award.

 KuPS in Europa League action

Whatever happens, the co-efficient will need to improve, and eyes will be on the champions to get through in the Champions League. The complicated UEFA mathematics show Finland not far behind Bosnia-Herzegovina in the rankings, but a huge gap then to the next level. A consistent run to the group stages will be required to get any long-term benefits.

Whatever happens, Escape To Suomi will bring you the highlights of the draw, along with permutations and, if things go smoothly for the Finns, the prospect of playing some of Europe's biggest clubs such as Inter and Liverpool!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Could a Nordic hosted Euros work?

It could be said that UEFA are pioneers. Since the turn of the century, we've seen jointly hosted European Championships in 2000 (Holland/Belgium), 2008 (Austria/Switzerland) and now in Poland and Ukraine. There are strong noises towards a triple-hosted bid in 2020 between the Celtic nations of Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The question is, would there be enough infrastructure, stadia or interest in a competition hosted in any of the Nordic countries?

 All roads lead somewhere

Sweden hosted an eight team tournament in 1992, which was won by Denmark (enough has been said about how they got in at the last minute). But that only needed four grounds, which were in Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm and Norrköping. With 24 teams involved, at least nine stadiums will be needed, two with a capacity over 50,000 and the other with minimums of 30,000 and 40,000.

What grounds and nations could host? The likely parties would be a mixture of Sweden, Denmark, and Finland or Norway. Finland may jump at the chance to host, purely for the automatic qualification spot... But stadia?


The three larger venues for Euro 92 would certainly fit nicely before any improvements were to be made. Gothenburg's Ullevi stadium has a current capacity of around 43,000; Malmö 27,500 and Stockholm's Råsunda holds just over 35,000. The infrastructure is in place, and a long football legacy is in place. Would be probably the biggest of the group, and likely to host the final.


The Parken Stadium in Copenhagen has held UEFA finals as recently as 2000, and boasts a current capacity of nearly 40,000. Brondby stadium holds around 29,000. Would require at least one new or rebuilt ground to make it worthwhile. With recent Champions League participants as well has a former Euro winner, there would be no shortage of people queuing to get in.


The Olympic stadium in Helsinki would be a good fit for opening game or final, with a current capacity of over 40,000. It was renovated in the 1990s, and then again prior to the athletics World Championship in 2005, with further works to be carried out soon. At least one more new or renovated ground would be needed to host games, possibly in Espoo, Turku or Vantaa.

The region's football and fans could benefit greatly from some increased spending and exposure. New stadia, while perhaps unsuitable for some of the smaller clubs in the domestic leagues, could be aspirational, used for international friendlies, and hopefully not just more white elephants.

The recent world ice hockey championships allowed numerous games played at the same venues, to the point that only Helsinki and Stockholm were required. If anything, just the chances for the European camera operators to pan through to ladies in the crowd will be enough of a draw...

The chap at the back needed all the bodyguards

Saturday, June 09, 2012

More than just a sideshow

Euro 2012 has kicked off in Poland and Ukraine, and yet domestic football goes on. The Finns aren't involved, and no Finnish clubs have had to lose any of their players.

Veikkausliiga returns on Monday with the 'derby' between JJK and KuPS - both managed to qualify for the upcoming Europa League but going through very different seasons. JJK are currently 5th, while last season's losing cup finalists KuPS are struggling, one place off the bottom. Without resorting to cliches, the form book may well go out of the window. But another defeat for the team from Kuopio and the rest of the pack will pull further away. The teams had already drawn the first meeting 2-2, with JJK scoring two late goals to grab a point.

Is it a bird? Is it a plan? (via Futisblogi Puoliaika)

While the eyes of the world are on the European Championship, it's back to the grind for the Finns. With the draw for the first qualifying round of the Europa League just two weeks away, the two teams need to make sure their focus is on the now, and not a potential glamour tie with the likes of APOEL or Anzhi.

Friday, June 08, 2012

King Litmanen - The Movie

Football films are a mixed bag. They can be work of fiction (Escape To Victory, Goal!), portrait (Zidane) or just a rough yarn around which a story is told (Green Street, Mean Machine). There is an upcoming release in Finland which can safely sit in the documentary section.

Kuningas Litmanen is simply translated as King Litmanen. To be released in the autumn in Finland, it is a film telling the tale of Jari from the early days in Finland before moving to some of the biggest clubs in the world. The fact that they have sourced talking heads from people like Dennis Bergkamp and Louis Van Gaal says a lot, and the trailer appears to promise more, with clips of Xavi, Gerrard and Roy Hodgson.

There's no mention of an international release yet, but the DVD is sure to be a hit this Christmas.


Escape to Suomi - welcome


After almost a year of blogging on the lighter side of football for the Nelson's Column blog, I've decided to set my stall out and specialise a little bit. The plan for this site is to bring some of the bigger news, stories, opinion pieces and results from the Finnish league.

Hopefully this will spread some word of the Veikkausliiga (Finnish top division), the national team and also some pieces on Finnish players throughout Europe. Being based in England, there will be some bias for the English market, but I will occasionally write pieces (and tweet) in Finnish where I can.

The aim? To entertain, and for an easy to read digest on Finnish football, with some light hearted pieces thrown in. If it raises your interest, great. I welcome any guest articles, advice, or anything I've missed.

And to answer any other questions, the blog title is a play on the film 'Escape to Victory'; the Finnish should be accurate as my wife is from Kuopio; and I do speak a little myself!