The football tournament had already concluded prior to the opening ceremony, where eleven teams competed over a week, and the tournament even featured a spin-off consolation tournament for teams eliminated in the first and second rounds.
The Finnish team at the 1912 Olympic opening ceremony
Finland entered the Olympics in some controversy. Still part of the Russian Empire (they were a Grand Duchy), the Finnish team entered the opening ceremony in Stockholm with no flag, in a bid to distance themselves from their Russian counterparts. Hannes Kolehmainen, winner of three gold medals for long-distance running, even went so far as to say he almost wished he hadn't won, after seeing the Russian flag lifted when he received his medals.
The official football team photo
Finland's first match was in Traneberg against Italy, in front of around 600 people. The weather was described as unsuitably warm, and almost unbearably hot. The first half saw two goals for each team, but a goalless second half saw the game go to extra-time, the Finns playing with ten men after an injury in the second period. A goal in the tenth minute of extra time by Bror Wiberg clinched the win, and saw Finland through to the quarter finals. Italy had to console themselves by moving directly to the consolation tournament, where they beat the hosts before losing to Austria. The official report of the fifth Olympiad cited travel-related tiredness as the main reason for the Italian's defeat, due to them having the furthest to travel (all eleven nations competing were European).
Finland (dark shirts) v Italy, 29th June 1912, Traneberg
Finland's reward for their victory was a tie with Russia, maybe a blessing with regards to the future controversy between the two nations at the opening ceremony. The match kicked off less than twenty-four hours after the Finns' earlier match, whereas Russia had received a bye. It turned out that Finland actually started better, Artturi Nyyssönen scoring the only goal of the first half. The second half saw Russia wake up, and equalise, before a late winner from Jarl Öhman, the man who would become Finland's first full-time manager. Between 200 and 300 people got to witness the victory, unfortunately the lowest attendance of the main tournament. The Finns reached the semi-finals with the win, while Russia went on to lose 16-0 to Germany in the Consolation Tournament, where Gottfried Fuchs scored ten goals.The opponents in the last four were Great Britain, who had won the previous tournament in 1908 staged in London. Like Russia, Britain had received a bye to the second round, where they faced Hungary, and defeated them 7-0, featuring six goals from one-time Arsenal forward Harold Walden. The British were anticipating a victory, resting forward Arthur Berry, and were keen to avoid any further injuries after losing Ted Hanney in the quarter-final. From the start, Jalmari Holopainen put a Sharpe cross into his own net, and another goal from Walden but the Brits 2-0 up after just seven minutes. The team in front could even afford to miss a penalty, before sealing victory with two goals in the final fifteen minutes, to entertain the 4,000 attending the Olympiastadion. The holders would go through to the final, while the Finns would face the bronze medal match against the Netherlands.
Finland try to prevent another British attack
The third place match was a one-sided affair. The Rasunda stadium hosted the meeting between the Finns and the Dutch, in front of an audience of a thousand people, but it seemed as the Dutch were expected to win at a canter. That they lost 4-1 in their semi-final to Denmark seemed to make little difference to the predictions, as that match had been described as one of the finest ever. The Finns only made one change in attack, but it was defence that perhaps required a rest - the Dutch scored nine goals without reply, including five by Jan Vos. The Finns had to make the short trip home, while the Dutch received bronze medals for their efforts. As a reward for their achievement, the Swedish FA presented the Finns with silver medals bearing their logo, also the prize award to the Hungarian winners of the consolation tournament.
For the Finns, there was no shame in losing to the eventual champion. The official report provided interesting opinions on the tournament as a whole, and with a hundred years of history and stories, seems quite timely to mention now. The British style of play was described as relying on science, combination and agility, whereas Finland were lumped in with Germany, Austria and Hungary as playing with speed and hard rushes, and without brain work, accusations that would have been herecy against future German and Hungarian sides. Finland went on to qualify for three further Olympic tournaments, including the 1952 Games in which were held in Helsinki, but never made it past the first round.