Sunday, December 29, 2013

Escape To Suomi 2013 - A Year In Review

At the end of last year, I put together a top five list of the most popular posts on this site throughout 2012. Well, I'm off work and thought I'd do the same - hopefully this will be helpful for some of my recent followers (hello!), and a chance to reminisce over the past twelve months.


Pretty much a beginners guide to the league, the purpose to help new fans into which clubs were involved, the European place allocations, and the best (legal) ways to watch games. It was posted on the league's official Twitter and Facebook, and a few other forums that I could see. Fortunately I didn't make too many predictions, other than HJK being favourites as they won the league by twelve points. Will put together a 2014 guide in due course - the season begins April 6th.



Ahead of Carl's debut for England U21s in October, Press Association journalist Simon Peach generously allowed me to host his interview with Arsenal right-back Jenkinson on the site. Needless to say, Carl's switch from Finland to England is still a discussion point, after he'd represented Finland's younger age group teams on a number of occasions (Carl has a Finnish mother). Carl did play against Finland U21s in November, where he was quite soundly booed by the small Finnish away section!




Another season preview, but this time looking at the threads each side would be wearing. Most sides had new kits, while the main highlight was Lahti's Tommi Kari looking FABULOUS. The Jaro kit pictured was in fact a training kit, but hey ho. Several clubs have already signed with new kit suppliers for next year, so look forward to another repeat.



On Monday January 14th 2013, the superb Football Weekly podcast featured Gregg Bakowski talking about how he met former Liverpool legend Sami Hyypiä in a Merseyside sauna... The conversation moved onto whether Finnish women were heavy-set, something Mrs ETS took great exception to! Anyway, it appears that putting pictures of an attractive woman on the site works, so here is the current Mrs Hyypiä, Susanna Rissanen.


Number 1 - Arsenal v Manchester City aka "Super Match"

One of the more controversial football matches in Finland this year was between two big English clubs - should Helsinki have been used as a stage, or could a Finnish side have been involved? Some people made a lot of money from the game, and some of it was pretty cringey - both sides walked out to the theme tune from the Superman movies. But Arsenal won, and had a huge majority in the crowd. Another post, with my photos from the day, is here.


Anyway, that was 2013 - 2014 will be more of the same. Stay tuned, we'll be looking to get bigger and better, feedback is welcome as always.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

From England to Finland - changing your national team

Earlier this year, When Saturday Comes published a piece written by a fan who had changed allegiance from (probably) Manchester United to another English club. The author raised several issues about whether he could cheer players he didn't like, pay money to owners he didn't agree with, or put up with supposed managerial mind games.


Club sides are something that are usually either chosen or inherited, forced upon by pushy parents, the subject of peer pressure, and perhaps a lottery based on where you grow up. But are national sides any different? If players can change their nationality for reasons of politics or convenience, surely a fan should be able to?

The Finland players saluting the Finland fans


I was born in, and grew up in, North London. My parents aren't English, and weren't particularly into football so there was no prompt in the direction of their respective nationalities. In the mid 1980s, when I first started watching football, the only international football matches I remember on TV were World Cups (1986) and the Euros (1988). I ended up supporting England because that was the done thing. I got the 1988 home shirt, remember being taunted on family holidays to where my parents hailed, and just got on with it.


But the club I support (Arsenal) changed, not in a bad way, and the days of five or six Gunners in the England squad dwindled into the later 1990s, where half of our squad would end up playing for France or Holland. I found it increasingly difficult to go to an England match (or watch on TV) and support Sheringham, Neville, Shearer or Ince. Suddenly enjoying France winning the 1998 World Cup didn't feel so dirty, or hoping a Bergkamp-inspired Holland would win Euro 2000 would be good for the club.


I don't know if it's part of a general nationwide malaise with the whole England side that led to a drift in support, but meeting and marrying a Finnish woman would no doubt play some part - I'm slowly picking up the language, visiting Finland fairly regularly, and started my very own Finnish football website. Does that mean I support Finland?

You've got to hold and give...
 

Probably, yes. Not even for the selfish reasons that Finland reaching a World Cup would probably mean plenty of interest in me and the site… Perhaps it's the novelty of supporting the underdog (in most games). I'm not sure how it'd work if the Finland squad had players from Spurs, Manchester United or Liverpool, they may do better after all, but I'd be back to one of the reasons I didn't enjoy watching England. Fickle indeed.


At the recent England v Finland U21 match, I was sat in the miniscule Finland allocation, wearing a Finland jacket generously sent by the Finnish FA, with Mrs ETS wearing a Finland jersey. Despite my obviously Celtic features and London accent, I was called a "Finnish c**t" by some of Milton Keynes' finest minds, but I felt more part of the singing Finns than the grumbling yoof sat behind us.

Milton Keynes, from the Finland end


I still want England to do well in competitive games, and I'll be wearing an old England top in the summer, desperately angling a BBQ for an 11pm kick-off in June. If any Arsenal players get picked, that's a bonus… My mate still sorts me out for the occasional ticket for Wembley, and transport issues permitting, I'd go along with him. I suppose I'm still English by birth, but like a work colleague of Indian descent who said she'd support England in everything except cricket, I'm in a delicate position. At least she admitted supporting India at cricket because they're good at it.


In my case there is a caveat - I've supported my club side through thick and thin, travelled throughout Europe to see them play, spent thousands of pounds watching, and brainwashed family members in the process. I've travelled from South to North London to watch England, bought a couple of jerseys, and queued to get in pubs. 


But I know full well that if myself and Mrs ETS ever have kids, they'll be bi-lingual, as proficient with YLE's child output as CBeebies, and hopefully preferring Dumle to Mars. If Finland get drawn with England in any qualifiers soon, I'll be in the Finland end, with my white and blue Adidas trainers, Suomi jacket, and perhaps a minor split loyalty. 


Until Ashley Cole's name is read out...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wales v Finland - Saturday November 16th

The final senior international of 2013 is upon us, and the squads are in. The teams will do battle this weekend at the Cardiff City Stadium, kicking off at 6pm GMT. The game will be shown live in the UK on Sky Sports 2.

Gareth Bale challenges Roni Porokara in 2009

Finland squad

Lukas Hradecky (Brøndby)
Niki Mäenpää (VVV Venlo)
Jesse Joronen (Fulham)

Jarkko Hurme (TPS)
Joona Toivio (Molde)
Veli Lampi (Arsenal)
Niklas Moisander (Ajax)
Petri Pasanen (Århus)
Jukka Raitala (Heerenveen)
Juhani Ojala (Terek Grozny)
Jere Uronen (Helsingborgs)
Kari Arkivuo (Häcken)

Tim Sparv (Greuther Fürth)
Roman Eremenko (Rubin Kazan)
Sakari Mattila (HJK)
Alexander Ring (Kaiserslautern)
Kasper Hämäläinen (Lech Poznan)
Rasmus Schüller (HJK)
Perparim Hetemaj (Chievo)

Teemu Pukki (Celtic)
Riku Riski (Hønefoss)
Joel Pohjanpalo (Aalen)
Tim Väyrynen (Honka)

The Finland starting XI is:

Hradecky
Arkivuo - Ojala - Moisander - Uronen
Ring - Sparv - Schüller
Riski - Eremenko
Pukki

Sparv v Ramsey - the rematch

Wales squad

Wayne Hennessey (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Danny Ward (Liverpool)
Owain Fon Williams (Tranmere Rovers)

James Collins (West Ham United)
Ben Davies (Swansea City)
Chris Gunter (Reading)
Ashley Richards (Swansea City)
Samuel Ricketts (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Neil Taylor (Swansea City)
Rhoys Wiggins (Charlton Athletic)
Ashley Williams (Swansea City)

Joe Allen (Liverpool)
Owain Tudur Jones (Hibernian)
Emyr Huws (Manchester City)
David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers)
Jack Collison (West Ham United)
Andy King (Leicester City)
Joe Ledley (Celtic)
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

Simon Church (Charlton Athletic)
Jermaine Easter (Millwall)
Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading)
Sam Vokes (Burnley)

In the Finland squad, Tim Väyrynen wins a first senior call-up after finishing the domestic season as top scorer - he's also in the U21 squad to face England on Thursday evening.

In eleven previous meetings between the sides, with both sides having four wins, with three draws. The last meeting ended 2-1 to Finland in Helsinki, Porokara and Moisander for Finland, Craig Bellamy for Wales.

Highlights of Finland 2-1 Wales (2010 World Cup qualifier)

Hopefully the travelling Finns will have something to cheer. Unfortunately I won't be at the game due to pre-booked commitments... Oi Suomi On!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 33 - over for another year

Six months on, everything is sorted. While last week confirmed the final major issue of who would get a medal, there were still farewells, trophies and places to deliver. Several managers move onto new clubs, HJK received the championship trophy, and several clubs still had places to play for.

Ahead of the loooooooooong winter break, there'll be posts looking at the best bits of 2013, statistical trends, and plenty of other things related to Finnish football - some will be appearing on other websites (follow Twitter/Facebook for more info). Meanwhile, here is the summary of the final round of fixtures.

HJK 4-2 KuPS

A fifth consecutive title had been confirmed a couple of weeks ago - but they finally got their hands on the trophy after a pretty open game against KuPS. The teams had previously faced each other in Helsinki in June, and KuPS came away with a 1-2 win. This time, Mikael Forssell's hat trick (6, 54, 89 mins) was decisive, although goals from Hakola and Paananen had given KuPS the lead. Mannström had scored the other (39').

Ville Wallen with the trophy - don't drop it!

HJK were unbeaten in their final twenty league matches after an indifferent start, including ten wins in the last eleven. It's lazy to assume the European exit was a kickstarter, as Honka were providing a solid challenge at the time. The key match was HJK's 4-2 win over Honka in August, from which Honka never recovered. KuPS meanwhile say goodbye to a mixed 2013 - inconsistent league form, a third cup final defeat in a row, and more financial loss. But with decent young players in the wings, some of the pieces are already there.

Highlights of HJK 4-2 KuPS

HJK finish the season top with 73 points (average 2.21 points per game). KuPS came seventh, with 41 points (1.24pts).

MYPA 3-0 JJK

JJK say farewell to the Veikkausliiga with a comprehensive defeat at MYPA - who ensured a top flight finish and an extra home game for 2014. Goals from Sihvola (62'), Sesay (66') and Anttilainen (76') sentenced JJK's young side to a fifteenth game without a win, and a fitting send-off into the second tier.

Highlights of MYPA 3-0 JJK

MYPA end in sixth place with 47 points (average 1.42pts). JJK were last with 22 points (0.67pts).

Inter 1-2 Honka

Tim Väyrynen's late winner ensured a winning finale to a good season for Honka, with a golden boot as the top scorer in the division. His seventeen goal of the season (86mins) delivered a thrilling comeback, after Guy Gnabouyou had given Inter the lead on 55mins, only to be equalised by Väisänen on 81mins. It was probably Tim's final game for Honka, whose silver medal was their highest finish since 2009.

Highlights of Inter 1-2 Honka

Inter end the season with 40 points (average 1.21 per game). Honka came second with 61 points (1.85pts).

IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

VPS's bronze medal party was brought down to Earth, but they won't be too fussed in the grand scheme. Goals from Trafford, Wiklöf and Hradecký gave Mariehamn a 3-0 lead, before Tomi Ameobi's ninth of the season made it 3-1. Byskata's injury time penalty made it 4-1 - good for Åland, which sees a historic season for the club end on a high note. VPS head into Europe next summer, but will remember the day for the bronze, not the result.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 4-1 VPS

IFK Mariehamn end the season in fourth place with 49 points (1.48pts per game). VPS were third, with 51 points (1.55pts).

Lahti 3-2 TPS

A fantastic second half of the season for Lahti ended with a win over TPS, who will be glad the season is over... Lahti's goals were scored by Hertsi, Rafael and Nganbe Nganbe. The TPS goalscorers were Riski and Lehtonen. A tremendous push from Lahti under RoPS-bound Juha Malinen, who took over a team destined for a relegation struggle. TPS meanwhile failed to live up to pre-season medal hopes, although injuries did take their toll - and budget cuts mean that 2014 could be just as challenging.

Highlights of Lahti 3-2 TPS

Lahti end the season in fifth place with 48 points (average 1.45pts). TPS ended in eighth, with 41 points (1.24pts).

Jaro 2-0 RoPS

The meeting of the teams in 11th and 10th was resolved early in favour of Jaro - Banner (6') and an Emet penalty (19') provided their first win in 13 games, after eight straight defeats. If you'd offered RoPS 11th and the Suomen Cup in March, I guess that would have been a good result... They only won one of their final ten games, and rumours of several player changes for their new coach could make things interesting - although I'm a big fan of Malinen. Watch this space.

(pending)
Highlights of Jaro 2-0 RoPS

Jaro's win took them to tenth, ending with 37 points (1.12pt average). RoPS finish in eleventh place with 34 points (average 1.03pts).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 32 - VPS secure bronze

Welcome back after the international break - Finland lost, various other things were sorted, and most things in Finland were already decided. But there was a bronze medal, and a Europa League place, up for grabs. In the end, the final round of games on Sunday is going to be pretty meaningless, albeit that may help the goals flow... Anyway, here's a quick summary of Sunday.

VPS 3-0 Jaro

After a hanging loosely onto the coat-tails of the leaders for the early part of the season, a run of five defeats in six games ended the idea of a first title since the 40s. But the club were resilient enough to keep in third, with mostly the same squad that struggled in 2012. A first European campaign in 14 years awaits anyway.

The inventor of netting sleeps safely at night (photo via Linus Lindholm)

An early penalty (7mins) by Tony Björk set up proceedings after skipper Strandvall was brought down, and the captain scored one of his own just before half-time to make it 2-0 with a lovely finish. Tomi Ameobi slammed in the third from a good five feet out (62mins), his eighth goal of the season. VPS celebrated wildly, with the bonus of inflicting Jaro's eighth consecutive defeat. Jaro need to beat RoPS on Sunday to avoid ending another year in 11th.

Highlights of VPS 3-0 Jaro

VPS will end the season in third place. With one game left, they have 51 points from 32 games, and play at IFK Mariehamn on Sunday. Jaro are eleventh, with 34 points from 32 games, and host RoPS in their last match.

TPS 3-3 IFK Mariehamn

This match was quite the spectacle, or at least the last twenty minutes was. Well worth one of my Urho credits... Anyway, TPS galloped into a three goal lead, a brace from Petteri Pennanen (45, 54mins) and one from Juho Lähde (58mins). A Mariehamn win would have taken the third place race to the last day - and they nearly did it. Goals from Bright (76'), Ibrahim (77') and Hradecky (84') levelled, and an injury-time miss from the usually prolific Luis Solignac almost won the game against the odds.

Highlights of TPS 3-3 IFK Mariehamn

TPS are in eighth place in the table, with 41 points from 32 games, and visit Lahti on the final day. IFK Mariehamn are fourth, with 46 points from 32 matches, and host VPS.

Honka 4-2 Lahti

Honka had been guaranteed second place for a while, but after a rotten run, they hosted the in-form Lahti on an emotional day (the final home matches for Tuoman Peltonen and Sampo Koskinen). Lahti took the lead (14mins, Hauhia), before Väyrynen's 16th goal of the season (35') equalised. The visitors went in 1-2 up after Loorents Hertsi scored (42'). Honka came out fighting though, goals from Mombilo (59'), Äijälä (73') and Porokara (75') ensured Lahti would not reach Europe, and their heroes would go out on a high note.

Highlights of Honka 4-2 Lahti

Honka will finish in second place. They have 58 points from 32 games, and play at Inter on the last day. Lahti are fifth, with 45 points from 32 games, and host TPS on Sunday.

JJK 0-5 HJK

Bottom against top - it wasn't going to be pretty. Even a flu-ravaged HJK were far too strong for the already relegated JJK - goals from Sorsa (16'), Zeneli (23, 61'), on-loan Markkanen (46') and Schüller (70') put a convincing shine on the result. As a fan of a Premier League club, the idea of Markkanen scoring against his parent club is a little odd, but hey-ho...

Highlights of JJK 0-5 HJK

HJK are champions, and have seventy points from 32 games, they host KuPS on the final day. JJK are bottom (12th) with 22 points from 32 matches, they visit MYPA on Sunday.

KuPS 1-2 Inter Turku

It snowed in Kuopio, as my friends and relatives kept telling Facebook. Unfortunately, both teams had little to play for, so the result was perhaps slightly unpredictable. Last year's top scorer Sirbiladze likes KuPS so much, this was his third goal in three games at the Savon Sanomat Areena. Dawda Bah equalised on 57mins, but Gruborovics scored the winner on 64mins, and meant that Inter can't finish lower than ninth.

Highlights of KuPS 1-2 Inter

KuPS are seventh, with 41 points from 32 games, and will be guests at HJK's title party on Sunday. Inter are ninth, with 40 points from 32 games, and will host Honka.

RoPS 0-1 MYPA

MYPA announced on Friday that they had agreed a partnership with Brazilian club Fluminense, but rather than the sunny beaches, they travelled to Lapland to visit RoPS. I've not seen the highlights yet, but Sasha Anttilainen's 73rd minute goal was the winner. RoPS are now winless in their last eight league matches, but have a Suomen Cup to show for it. MYPA have virtually guaranteed another top half finish, and are in the running for the Fair Play nomination.

RoPS are in tenth place, with 34 points from 32 games, and they visit Jaro on Sunday. MYPA are sixth with 44 points from 32 games, and host relegated JJK on final day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Interview with Carl Jenkinson

Ahead of England's U21 games against San Marino and Lithuania, friend of the blog Simon Peach spoke to Carl Jenkinson on behalf of the Press Association. Simon has very generously allowed me to host the interview here, while some of the text will have been seen elsewhere in the British Press.

Carl in Finland action

How is the season going for you?
"On the team front it has been great so far. I'm really pleased with how we're doing as a team and personally I have played quite a lot of games, which has been good for me.
"I think Bac's out for two to three weeks so hopefully I'll have a couple of games here and then maybe get a little run of games.
"That's good for me because I always play my best football when I've had a little run. So it's so far so good."

Is it good to drop down to the England Under-21s then?
"Yes. Hopefully I'll get games and playing for England at any level is an honour.
"When I was given this opportunity it was a no brainer for me.
"At the end of the day I want to play for England and this is a very close step to the senior side. "Of course you have to be doing well for your club, but if you're impressing for the Under-21s I am sure the message gets back to Roy Hodgson.
"So it's good for me all round. It's good to get games and they're not friendlies either, they're qualifiers. It's going to be good for me and I'm really looking forward to it."

Not many have won Under-21s caps for different countries?
"I know. It's really strange. And it's mad to think I could be playing against Finland next month. It's crazy, but football's a strange game.
"It's weird how things work out, but it would be a nice experience for me to play against some of the Finnish lads I played with before. It would be good."

Have you still got friends in the Finland team?
"Yes. They are in my age group so I've played with not all of them but a fair few of them. I've got quite a few friends there and I know the manager as well.
"I played under him, he's a guy I've always spoken very highly of so it would be a great experience and I'd really look forward to it."

You got a good reception in Finland on the pre-season tour with Arsenal?
"It was amazing and something I really didn't expect.
"I was worried I might get booed and I was prepared for that. Then to go out there and get the response I did when I went on, it blew me away to be honest with you. It was a day I will always look back on very fondly. I wasn't expecting it and it was a great feeling.
"Playing at a club like Arsenal I know I am never going to be the lad fans are always cheering. "That will always be a Walcott or a Giroud or an Ozil, but on that occasion I was the main man and it was quite a nice experience to be honest."

Carl soaking up the ovation in Helsinki (August 2013)

What is it like facing the likes of Raheem Sterling, Ravel Morrison and Wilfried Zaha in training?
"They're fantastic. They were the ones who stood out in my first session, Sterling scored loads of goal but they were all fantastic. They showed why they are at the clubs they're at.
"I didn't kick them. I didn't face them in the games at the end. We need to keep them fit for the games. I would have got a few stern words off the gaffer had I kicked them.
"They're fantastic players and an asset to any side, especially at under-21 level.

What are your memories of Finland?
"I look back on it as a fantastic experience. I played for England Under-17s and I was third choice at the time. I then had the opportunity to play for Finland. At the time I went there and was playing regularly.
"I was in Charlton's reserve and youth teams and playing international football and there weren't many people in my team getting the experience I was.
"In terms of my career at the time it was great for me. I enjoyed my time there but at the same time when England came knocking, I had to follow my heart. I've always felt English at the end of the day."

Did Mum or Dad try to sway you?
"I was lucky. I have a supportive family so there weren't too many digs or trying to sway me one way or another. My mum was very supportive of my decision which was nice.
"I am sure she would have loved me to play for Finland but she was very supportive and I'm grateful for that."

Carl in Finland kit

Finland U21s will be playing at Milton Keynes next month. Last I heard, MK had only sold three tickets in the away end. Feel free to come and join us, and make some noise.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 31 - HJK champions, Lahti leapfrog

With the final few weeks of the season remaining, an international break is an unwelcome distraction. Even with the calendar finally settling down to one (league) match a week, the risk of injuries from a long season could catch up. Luckily, the two key moments in a league season have now been resolved. JJK's relegation was confirmed on Wednesday after a 0-4 defeat to KuPS, while HJK secured their fifth consecutive title on Sunday.

HJK celebrate with a victory sauna...

The turning point in the title was was their 4-2 win over Honka in August, which sent the Espoo side into a tailspin, while HJK grew in stature and showed their experience when it counted. But there is still plenty to play for - the race for third is still on, with Europa League football the prize, and the current league structure means that teams finishing in the top half will get an extra home match next season. While rumours fly around that the league may be expanded to 14 or even 16 teams, it will be weeks or months before a decision is made.

HJK 3-0 RoPS

HJK's title was confirmed not by their win, but by more dropped points from Honka. But they wrapped things up in style. A goalless first half kept the 7110 paying customers waiting, but second half strikes from Forssell, Savage and Mannström delighted them all, aided again by the superb Erfan Zeneli. HJK's 26th title is sorted, while they'll receive their trophy and medals on the final day at home to KuPS. Meanwhile, RoPS's hopes of a second victory at the Sonera in a week were crushed, and they drop further down, with only relegated JJK keeping them safe.

Highlights of HJK 3-0 RoPS

HJK are confirmed as champions, with 67 points from 31 matches. RoPS are in eleventh place, with 34 points from 31 games (12 points ahead of relegated JJK).

Honka 2-4 KuPS

I tweeted earlier in the week that Honka had won their previous 18 games against KuPS in all competitions - perhaps I should jinx KuPS's opponents more often... The defeat cup finalists tore into a three-goal-lead, with goals from Hynynen, Hakola and Purje. Honka came close to a point after Tim Väyrynen and Vasara scored, but an injury time goal from Aleksi Paanenen secured the win, the title for HJK, and a third consecutive league win for Kuopio's finest. A sending off for Gideon Baah keeps him riding high at the top of the naughty boy chart.

Highlights of Honka 2-4 KuPS

Honka are confirmed in second place, with a silver medal. They have 55 points from 31 games. KuPS are now sixth, with 41 points from 31 games.

Lahti 5-1 IFK Mariehamn

English centre-back Darren Purse tweeted before the game of his wonder at the Lahden Stadion ski jumps... Perhaps he'll wished he'd taken up the other sport after a 30th minute red card, his second of the season, such was the Lahti domination here. Two goals from Ariel 'Tuco' Ngueukam and a hat-trick from Rafael saw Lahti's second five-goal haul in a row. A late consolation from Ribeiro meant little other than goal difference, and Lahti overtook their guests to make fourth place, and are surely the closest challenger to VPS for third.


Highlights of Lahti 5-1 IFK Mariehamn

Lahti are fourth, with 45 points from 31 games (GD -1). Mariehamn are fifth, with 45 points from 31 games (GD -8).

Inter 2-0 JJK

Last year's runner-up Inter have left it late to hit some form, albeit against the lower placed teams. Wednesday's win at RoPS is followed by another three points at home to Inter. Two late goals (75', 90') from former JJK man Tamas Gruborovics sealed the win, and may yet lead to a late run from Inter into the top half. JJK haven't won since their last meeting with Inter, back in July. A long, sorry run.

Highlights of Inter 2-0 JJK

Inter are ninth, with 37 points from 31 matches. JJK are in twelvth place, and are relegated. They have 22 points from 31 games.

MYPA 1-1 VPS

VPS dropped two valuable points in their pursuit of third, but still hold the advantage. MYPA's season has drifted to a stop, but with Antti Muurinen signing as coach for 2014 and several players extending their contracts, the future could look better. VPS took an early lead through Jordan Seabrook, but another Pekka Sihvola penalty earned MYPA a point. MYPA are currently second in the Fair Play rankings, but set to potentially earn the Europa League spot as HJK are top.

Highlights of MYPA 1-1 VPS

MYPA are in seventh place, with 41 points from 31 games. VPS are third, with 48 points from 31 games.


Jaro 0-3 TPS

Jaro's rotten form continues, this was their seventh league defeat in a row, and their now winless in 11. Surely it is too simplistic to point out that this run started when Hendrik Helmke left the club... Anyway, many people's tips for relegation are showing such form. TPS recorded only their third win in ten matches, goals from Wayne Brown, Mika Ääritalo and on-loan Manchester City youth Thomas Agyiri.

Highlights of Jaro 0-3 TPS

Jaro are tenth place, with 34 points from 31 games. TPS are eighth, with 40 points from 31 matches.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Game Of Emotions (with Aki Riihilahti & Teemu Tainio)

It's a pain sometimes that Finnish football gets noticed as much for novelty values than it does for the football. Some of the most seen things I've posted across the various platforms include an HJK fan falling out of a stand, MYPA's pitch resembling a golf course, and an article about Mrs Hyypiä. Most of it then gets lifted by 101GreatGoals without due credit... Even Egan Richardson's photo of a recent Ilta-Sanomat page turned up in free UK rag Metro.

In the same vein, former Premier League midfielders Aki Riihilahti (Crystal Palace) and Teemu Tainio (Spurs) have appeared in a series of adverts for betting group Veikkaus, along with several other high-profile Finnish athletes, and weirdly, The Bold And The Beautiful actor Ronn Moss... (I've talked about Ronn before, his show was huge in Finland in the 90s according to Mrs ETS).

Ronn and Aki learn their lines

As part of a campaign to remind people that there is more drama in sports stands, Veikkaus conceived these adverts... They've certainly got people talking. Luckily it's in English (with Finnish subtitles) so we can all enjoy it.

Part one features Aki Riihilahti, Teemu Tainio and golfer Minea Blomqvist.


Part one

Part two features Aki, Minea and javelin thrower Mikaela Ingberg.

Part two

Part three features Mikaela, speed skater Pekka Koskela and hockey player Petteri Nummelin.

Part three

Part four features Mikaela, Aki, former hockey player Juhani Tamminen, Petteri, Minea, Teemu and Pekka.


Part four

Either way, it should tickle you for a little while - feel free to leave comments below with suggestions for an English version. Perhaps without the ageing Joey Tribbiani-a-like.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 30 - Honka choke, HJK almost there

I'm not in a position to actually write anything this week, other than there were four games (two were postponed due to the Suomen Cup final), lots of goals and the videos do the talking. I promise I'll do some proper bits soon, probably after the season's end... Enjoy.

VPS 1-1 HJK


Lahti 5-2 Jaro


IFK Mariehamn 3-2 Honka


TPS 2-1 MYPA

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 29 - Lahti catching up

A matchweek spread from Friday to Monday - very nice. Quick summary of all six matches here. Apologies for taking so long, but I got Grand Theft Auto 5, and despite my hints, I still have no way of watching Kutonen games in the UK.

MYPA 0-1 Lahti

One manager taking over from another - with Juha Malinen leaving Lahti to take over at RoPS, MYPA coach Toni Korkeakunnas has agreed to take over at Lahti for 2014. Perhaps there's no better way to please his new masters by giving them a shot at a top half finish (with an extra home match that comes with it).

Diving in (photo via Lukas Pearsall)

 The travelling Lahti fans braving the weather (photo via Lukas Pearsall)

The only goal came in the 65th minute, Jean Ngambe Ngambe slotting home from close range through a sea of legs. It meant that Lahti's recent run of form in the last three months is P17 W11 L6. MYPA meanwhile are falling away from a European place, with only the Fair Play spot to hope for (they're currently second behind HJK). Their new manager will have their work cut out.

Highlights of MYPA 0-1 Lahti

MYPA are fifth, with 40 points from 29 games. Lahti are sixth, with 39 points from 29 matches.

Honka 3-3 JJK

Monday night's game was key at both ends of the table - Honka needed a win to keep up with HJK (see below), while time was running out for JJK at the bottom of the table. Honka coasted into a 2-0 half-time lead, a neat finish from Tim Väyrynen (20') followed by the same man converting a penalty after Yaghoubi was fouled, despite the theatrical fall (37').

Tim Väyrynen (r) challenging Hanslian

Whatever was said in the JJK dressing room worked, as they fired in three goals, from Hilska (60'), a splendid effort from Rob Taylor (66') and Virtanen (80'). It needed Väyrynen's stunning curled hat-trick goal to salvage a point in the 94th minute, worthy of taking him to top of the scorer charts, but probably in vain with HJK's grip on the title strengthening.

Highlights of Honka 3-3 JJK

Honka are second, with 55 points from 29 games, five behind HJK (who have a game in hand). JJK are still bottom, with 22 points from 29 matches, nine adrift of safety with four games to play.

HJK 3-1 TPS

Just like last year, despite a close challenger, they fall away and HJK head to victory. They made this victory awkward - TPS actually took the lead, a superb counter-attack finished by Lähde on 24mins. But two goals from an unlikely source restored the balance - Valtteri Moren headed in two Zeneli set pieces (26' and 46') to make it 2-1, before a great cross from Alho invited a near-post strike from Schüller on 76', and three points for HJK. The two teams meet again in Turku this Thursday.

Highlights of HJK 3-1 TPS

HJK are top, 60 points from 28 games, with a five point lead over Honka and a game in hand. TPS meanwhile continue to make mugs of my prediction that they'd come second, they are ninth with 34 points from 28 games.

Inter 1-2 VPS

After such a good start to the season, VPS were in danger of drifting into mid-table without a trace. But their third win in a row means that they have third place (and the Europa League) in their own hands. Toni Björk's 24th minute penalty gave them the lead, before Tamas Gruborovics replied early in the second half with a penalty of his own. Anthony Dafaa, whose injury was a main factor in VPS's poor run, scored the winner with 12 minutes left. Inter meanwhile are rotting, their Veikkausliiga status saved only by JJK's impending relegation.

Highlights of Inter 1-2 VPS

Inter sit in 11th place, with 31 points from 29 games, ten points ahead of JJK. VPS are third, with 46 points from 29 games.

KuPS 2-0 RoPS

A dress rehearsal for Saturday's Suomen Cup final - and won comfortably by the mighty KuPS. Three points was the prize here, while Saturday sees a cup and European football on offer for the winner. Goals from Ilja Venäläinen (35') and Dudu (45') saw a routine win, and gives KuPS hope of a top half finish.

Highlights of KuPS 2-0 RoPS

KuPS are now in seventh place, with 35 points from 29 games. RoPS are tenth, with 34 points from 29 games. It really is tight in the middle.

Jaro 1-2 IFK Mariehamn

Saturday afternoon's game was vital for both teams - Jaro's good early season had faded, while Mariehamn remain inconsistent but needed to win to dream of a return to Europe. Free scoring summer signing Luis Solignac's fifth goal in five games opened the scoring on 20mins for Mariehamn, but Frank 'the Tank' Jonke equalised on 36mins. A 66th minute winner from IFK's other summer man Josef Ibrahim (3 goals in 7) secured the points, and keep Mariehamn 4 points behind VPS.

Highlights of Jaro 1-2 IFK Mariehamn

Jaro are now eighth, with 34 points from 29 games, and have lost their last five games. Mariehamn are fourth, 42 points from 29 games.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 28 - VPS going for bronze

Hot on the heels of the last round, comes a Monday with all twelve teams in action. There were plenty of goals, and while nothing changed at the top or bottom, the middle moved around a little bit...

VPS 2-1 KuPS

With the top two so far ahead, nine other sides had aspirations of coming third - even second-bottom Inter were only ten points away with six matches left. VPS had started the season well, but have struggled for goals lately - and they won this game the hard way against KuPS.

VPS head the race for third (photo via Mikael Nybacka)

KuPS had struggled too this season, but Ilja Venäläinen's eleventh goal of the season with just two minutes gone looked promising. They held the lead for an hour, before Jordan Seabrook flicked in an equaliser (63'), before captain Sebastian Strandvall missed a birthday penalty. It was substitute Steven Morrissey who sealed the points with an 84th minute goal, and took VPS clear in the race for third, with Europa League football the prize.

Highlights of VPS 2-1 KuPS
 
VPS sit third in the table, with 43 points from 28 matches. KuPS remain tenth, with 32 points from 28 games.

Lahti 0-2 HJK

After all the build-up, including bus stop posters and all sorts, HJK won a crucial three points with two goals from Robin Lod (who has six for the season, including his hat-trick against Honka). They even managed to miss a penalty at 0-0, the normally reliable Zeneli hit a tame one straight at the keeper's legs. Lod's goals came on 44 and 71 minutes. Lahti's recent form is still impressive, and haven't drawn since June... That they were genuine relegation contenders for part of the season shows their rise, while HJK's form since the Champions League debacle has been near faultless, unbeaten in 14 league games and they've won the last five.

Highlights of Lahti 0-2 HJK

Lahti are sixth in the table, 36 points from 28 games. HJK are top, with 57 points from 27 matches - three clear of Honka with a game in hand, which is against TPS next week.

Jaro 1-3 Honka

Honka had drawn their last two matches 0-0, but their youngsters provided a spark in Pietarsaari. 20-year-old Kevin Mombilo carried on his promising form with the opening goal (20'), before Tim Väyrynen's tenth goal of the season (42') ensured a half-time lead of 2-0. A superb solo goal from Moshtagh Yaghoubi (61') made it 3-0, before Mathias Kullström pulled one back (77'), but it wasn't enough to halt Jaro's run of eight games without a win. There were some handbags after the final whistle, but nothing major.

Highlights of Jaro 1-3 Honka

Jaro are seventh, with 34 points from 28 games. Honka remain second, 54 points from 28 games (one game more than HJK, three points behind).

IFK Mariehamn 3-2 MYPA

The game had been delayed by half an hour after the officials were delayed... They were there to give a penalty to Mariehamn, converted by Byskata (16'), before goals from Solignac (35') and Bernardo (81') looked like a smooth ride was in store. But the foot came off the gas, and MYPA made it nervous after Anttilainen (84') and Soiri (89')... But it ended 3-2, a decent recovery for Mariehamn after last week's drubbing.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 3-2 MYPA

IFK Mariehamn are fifth in the table, 39 points from 28 games. MYPA are fourth, with 40 points from 28 matches.

RoPS 1-1 JJK

JJK picked up a point after the journey to Rovaniemi, but it did little to help their struggle against relegation. Mika Lahtinen scored for RoPS after 29 minutes, before Antto Hilska equalised (with his second goal in two games) after 74 minutes. RoPS are now winless in five, JJK haven't won any league games in ten.

No highlights yet.

RoPS are ninth, 34 points from 28 games. JJK are twelvth, with 21 points from 28 games - ten behind Inter with five matches left.

TPS 1-1 Inter

TPS opened the scoring in the Turku derby after just a minute (Roope Riski). But a late header from Guy Gnabouyou (84') earned a point for Inter, to keep the gap to JJK at ten points. TPS are winless in five games, and have two games against HJK to come. Inter meanwhile have two wins in nineteen.

Highlights of TPS 1-1 Inter

TPS are eighth, with 34 points from 27 games. Inter are eleventh, with 31 points from 28 matches.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 27 - HJK extend lead

They don't wait long after international breaks in Finland - Thursday's games kicked off less than 48 hours after the Georgia v Finland match on Tuesday. A full round on Thursday/Friday will also be followed by a full round on Monday... The debate about fixture congestion and league structure will rage on.

HJK 6-1 IFK Mariehamn

After scoring five goals in their previous league match at Jaro, HJK stepped it up with six against Mariehamn (they've now scored 21 goals against them in 5 league and cup matches this year). A masterful performance from Mikael Forssell capped off a day that saw HJK extend their lead at the top to three points, with a game in hand.

HJK's ginger Don Draper in form

It was Erfan Zeneli who opened the scoring (13'), curling into the far corner from the edge of the area. A cute backheel from Forssell then set up Sorsa (27'), before Miklu was brought down in the box and Zeneli took the penalty (32') and the half time score was 3-0. The second half was five minutes old when Forssell was given an open goal to aim at, before he headed in his second (68'). He was replaced to a standing ovation by the debutant Eero Markkanen, before Mariehamn got a consolation through Bernardo Ribiero, although Ibrahim's shot had crossed the line already (80'). Demba Savage finished off the rout on 84mins and it ended 6-1 - but it could have been ten...

Highlights of HJK 6-1 IFK Mariehamn

HJK are top of the table, with 54 points from 26 games - three clear of Honka with a game in hand (to be played against TPS in two weeks). IFK Mariehamn are fifth, with 36 points from 27 games.

Honka 0-0 RoPS

Honka lost ground on the leaders with a 0-0 draw at home to RoPS, in front of a crowd of 2032 who paid what they wanted - we await figures of how much... Both teams had chances (including Honka having a couple ruled out for offside), but RoPS are now unbeaten in six away league games, having lost eight in a row before. Honka have had two goalless draws in a row, and seem to be running out of steam...

Highlights of Honka 0-0 RoPS

Honka are second in the table, with 51 points from 27 matches. RoPS are ninth, with 33 points from 27 games.

Inter 1-3 Lahti

Lahti had billed the return of Ariel 'Tuco' Ngueukam as something akin to Mannerheim, the famous General - his second debut had been delayed due to visa issues (this was his first start). He opened the scoring at Inter with 24 minutes gone, celebrating with a salute... Guy Gnabouyou equalised just after, then Vini Dantas restored Lahti's lead before the break, set up by another backheel. Pyry Kärkkäinen's second half goal sealed the win (68').

Highlights of Inter 1-3 Lahti

Inter are eleventh, with 30 points from 27 games, ten clear of JJK. Lahti are now sixth, 36 points from 27 games, behind Mariehamn on goals scored.

JJK 1-3 VPS

JJK are quickly running out of matches, and a home defeat to bronze-medal chasing VPS doesn't help. A goal at the end of the first half from Tomi Ameobi gave VPS the lead, and he'll struggle to score an easier goal, and I don't think he knew much about it. The second VPS goal meanwhile was a different beast, Steven Morrissey picking up the ball in his half, fighting off several defenders and scoring (63') - a great goal, his first since returning to Finland. JJK's Hilska scored after 79mins, but Morrissey scored again in the 86th minute to ensure another JJK loss.

VPS get ahead (photo via Jaana Kautto)

Highlights of the game can be seen here, via the KSML website.

JJK remain bottom of the table, with 20 points from 27 matches, ten points behind Inter and safety. VPS are fourth, on 40 points from 27 games, behind MYPA on goal difference.

KuPS 1-1 TPS

TPS needed an injury time equaliser to leave Kuopio with anything. Miikka Ilo scored for KuPS after 15 minutes, but TPS sub Mikko Hyyrynen scored in the 92nd minute to seal a point for TPS, who still have hopes for third place.

KuPS are tenth, with 32 points from 27 games. TPS are 8th, with 33 points from 26 matches.

MYPA 1-0 Jaro

MYPA coach Toni Korkeakunnas spent the international break sorting out becoming Lahti's next coach (for next season), but carried on the quest for Europe with a routine win over Jaro. Olajide Williams scored the only goal after just five minutes, from six yards out.

Highlights of MYPA 1-0 Jaro

MYPA are third in the table, with 40 points from 27 games. Jaro are down to seventh, with 34 points from 27 matches.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Finland v Spain - the rematch

Back in March, we saw the Miracle of Gijón - David and Goliath, Finland's biggest game in years - and they held World and European champions Spain to a draw. It's a miracle because let's be honest. Spain dominated, had 46 attempts on goal, 72% possession, and 38 corners. Yet it ended 1-1 as Teemu Pukki scored a breakaway goal late on (79mins), equalising Sergio Ramos' goal just after the half time.

When goalscorers collide

The return match takes place this Friday in Helsinki, in front of a sell-out crowd of 37,500. The stakes are high - a Spain win would almost seal automatic qualification, while Finland have little chance of making the play-offs, any result would contribute towards an improved seeding for the Euro 2016 qualifier pots.

Niki Mäenpää gets vital practice (photo via Jussi Eskola)

Finland come into the game on the back of some decent results, a friendly win over Slovenia and 4 points from Belarus in two qualifier in June. They'll be missing Perparim Hetemaj for the tie, after he collected his second booking of the group in Belarus. The Finns are also missing Joel Pohjanpalo and Toni Kolehmainen through injury, while Mikael Forssell doesn't make the squad due to a lack of playing time with HJK.

Will Mattila need a crash helmet on Friday? (photo via Huuhkajat)

The Spain squad is missing some familiar faces. Chelsea's Juan Mata and Fernando Torres miss out, Xabi Alonso is injured, while Sergio Busquets withdrew. But they can still call on the likes of Iniesta, Villa, Pedro and Xavi. When naming his squad, Vicente del Bosque said "We have some replacements who can contribute a lot to the side. There's no drama. These 23 players will give their all to beat Finland... We can't use whether they are playing or not as an excuse. The system of play can vary, but we're not changing the philosophy. The layout, sure, but not the philosophy."

Del Bosque with the crucial bit of paper

The players in Friday night's drama are:

Finland

Niki Mäenpää (VVV Venlo)
Lukas Hradecky (Brøndby)
Henri Sillanpää (VPS)
Markus Halsti (Malmö)
Petri Pasanen (AGF Århus)
Veli Lampi (Arsenal Kyiv)
Joona Toivio (Molde
Jukka Raitala (Heerenveen)
Juhani Ojala (Terek Grozny)
Mikko Sumusalo (HJK)
Niklas Moisander (Ajax)
Kari Arkivuo (Häcken)
Kasper Hämäläinen (Lech Poznan)
Tim Sparv (Greuther Fürth)
Alexander Ring (Kaiserslautern)
Sakari Mattila (HJK)
Roman Eremenko (Rubin Kazan)
Teemu Tainio (HJK)
Rasmus Schüller (HJK)
Teemu Pukki (Celtic)
Riku Riski (Hønefoss)
Erfan Zeneli (HJK)
Spain

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Pepe Reina (Napoli)
Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid)
Raul Albiol (Napoli)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)
Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)
Nacho Fernandes (Real Madrid)
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona)
David Silva (Manchester City)
Javi Garcia (Manchester City)
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Jesus Navas (Manchester City)
Isco (Real Madrid)
Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Mario Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
David Villa (Atletico Madrid)
Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona)
Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City)
Roberto Soldado (Tottenham)

Will we see sad Spaniards again this weekend? A draw was a miracle. What could a win be? If you're not able to watch the game, follow Escape To Suomi on Twitter and Facebook for live updates.

Extended highlights of Spain 1-1 Finland (via Tumpero on YouTube)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Veikkausliiga week 26 - HJK thump Jaro, Honka blank

A full weekend of fixtures, and it looks more and more like confirming the top and bottom of the table. Meanwhile, the group of teams between third and eleventh are still just as close... A quick summary.

Jaro 1-5 HJK

Since beating Honka a fortnight ago, HJK's task was clear - win their remaining games, they win the title. They kicked off on a wet Sunday at the same time as Honka, but they went about their business in style, taking four minutes to open the scoring - Mikael Forssell with his first goal in seven league games, but he then slammed a 22nd minute penalty against the post... They eventually doubled the lead before the break, Zeneli finding space at the edge of the box and firing in the bottom corner.

Forssell challenging Jaro keeper Öst

The second half had barely started when Nikolai Alho lashed in a third goal after Jaro threw away possession. Jaro lost Funicello for a second yellow after a wild challenge on 53 minutes, then Sakari Mattila made it 0-4 on 58'. Forssell scored his second on 76', meeting a cross for his eighth goal of the season. An own goal with ten minutes left made it 1-5, but it was a comprehensive win.

Highlights of Jaro 1-5 HJK

HJK return to the top of the table, with 51 points from 25 matches (their game in hand is against TPS later in the month). Jaro are sixth, with 34 points from 26 games.

Lahti 2-0 KuPS

Friday's game was a feisty affair, but was settled by two goals inside twenty minutes. The first was a slight blooper, Mäkitalo slipped while taking a corner in the 11th minute, but the ball found it's way to Pyry Kärkkäinen who finished nicely. Six minutes later, Tommi Kari met a cross in front of the goal, and Mika Hilander could only push it back out via the bar, and a goal given.

After that, a few yellow cards were brandished, and league top scorer Rafael saw red for an elbow in the second half. There were some tasty challenges, but Lahti saw the game out and it ended 2-0.

Highlights of Lahti 2-0 KuPS

Lahti, having spent nearly the whole season in the bottom two, go up to seventh, with 33 points from 26 matches. KuPS drop to 10th, with 31 points from 26 games.

TPS 2-2 JJK

Saturday's match was crucial for both sides, but the result did little to help either. Hilska gave JJK the lead after 30', but TPS equalised just 3 minutes later with a goal from Lehtonen. In the second half, Eero Markkanen said farewell (he signed on loan for HJK later) with another goal on 50', but Juho Lähde salvaged a point on 69'.

Highlights of TPS 2-2 JJK

TPS are eighth in the table, with 32 points from 25 matches. JJK remain bottom, 20 points from 26 games, ten points from safety with seven games left.

MYPA 0-0 Honka

No goals. One red card (MYPA's Ramadingaye was sent off for a second yellow in the last minute). Honka lose ground. Enjoy!

Highlights of MYPA 0-0 Honka

MYPA are third in the table, with 37 points from 26 games. Honka drop to second, with 50 from 26.

VPS 1-1 RoPS

With both teams in the huddle for the race for third, but another draw didn't help either. The goals didn't come until late, but the first was special - Jamaican midfielder Akeem Priestly picked up the ball on the halfway line and fired in from 25 yards out (82mins). A rare away win was on the cards, but VPS equalised on 86mins, Scotsman Grant Kerr with a crucial goal to save a point.

Highlights of VPS 1-1 RoPS

VPS are fourth in the table, with 37 points from 26 games. RoPS are 9th, with 32 points from their 26 matches.

IFK Mariehamn 1-1 Inter

Inter opened the scoring through Irakli Sirbiladze (65mins), his eighth of the season, but a curling 87th minute equaliser from Alonzo Adlam secured a point for Mariehamn. I don't think I've written more than a paragraph about any Inter match this season.

Highlights of IFK Mariehamn 1-1 Inter

IFK Mariehamn are fifth, with 36 points from 26 matches. Inter are eleventh, with 30 points from 26 games.