Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts

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:


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)

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)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spain 1-1 Finland: In numbers

I'll admit in the preview to this match, I didn't give Finland much chance. In the build-up to the game on Twitter, I forecasted that Finland would be solid, nick a goal on the break... I also said they'd concede three or four goals. But thankfully I, and most people, were wrong. Finland defended well and did nick a goal, and the goal was an equaliser to make it 1-1.

The Finnish squad celebrating in Gijon

Rather than summarise the game, I'll bombard you with some numbers that seem significant. There are also some gratuitous photos and highlights.

0 - Finland finished the game without earning a corner. Spain had 19!

2 - Two of the Finland starting eleven (Teemu Tainio and Alexander Ring) are based in the Finnish league, while Ring has only just returned from a loan spell at Borussia Monchengladbach.

5 - Teemu Pukki's goal was his fifth international goal, but only his first in a competitive match.

Teemu Pukki's goal (Finnish commentary)

18 - Finland had 18% possession of the ball throughout the 90 minutes. In comparison, Inter Milan had 14% possession in their 2010 European Cup semi-final at Barcelona.

28 - It's been 28 years since Finland scored an international goal in Spain. Mika Lipponen scored in a 3-1 defeat to the Spanish in a friendly in Alicante.

29 - Spain had 29 shots on the Finland goal in ninety minutes, but only four of them were on target.

Things get heated towards the end of the match

100 - The Spanish goalscorer Sergio Ramos earned his 100th cap for this game, aged 26.

168 - Days until the return match in Helsinki. Tickets are already selling quickly...

500 - FIFA world ranking points that Spain will earn for the draw, the same as if they'd beaten the USA in a friendly.

Highlights of Spain 1-1 Finland

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spain v Finland, World Cup qualifier

Next week sees Finland's biggest test under Mixu Paatelainen, and perhaps their biggest game for many years. Facing the World and European champions in their own backyard (well, Gijon) is about as tough as it gets for any international side, let alone Finland.

The hosts won their first two games in qualifying group I, before dropping points at home to France in Madrid (a 94th minute goal by Olivier Giroud). The Finns however have only one point so far, a home defeat to the French and a disappointing 1-1 draw against Georgia, which saw Alexei Eremenko Jr sent off for two yellow cards. Finland's squad will then go on to face Luxembourg the following Tuesday.

2010 winners Spain are up next

Finland are taking a strong squad to Spain, the biggest absentee is the suspended Eremenko. Some young players will be benefitting from the experience, including Fulham's young goalkeeper Jesse Joronen, young HJK pair Rasmus Schüller and Mikko Sumusalo, Bursaspor's Petteri Forsell and Jarkko Hurme of TPS.

Spain's squad is announced to be announced on Friday (15th). They're unbeaten since a 2011 defeat to England in a friendly at Wembley. Spain are likely to be without captain Iker Casillas (hand injury), while Xavi and David Villa have recently been injured (but are likely to be involved). Their last match was a 3-1 friendly win over South American champions Uruguay.

Friendly international in 2007

Previous meetings between the two sides have been rare, the last fixture was a friendly in Helsinki in 2007, which ended 0-0. Prior to that, two non-competitive matches in 1994 were both won by Spain. The last competitive (and first of any) fixtures were in qualification for the 1970 World Cup, where Finland won the Helsinki match 2-0, but lost 6-0 in La Línea. Neither country qualified for that tournament, Belgium winning the pre-tournament group.

Highlights of Spain 6-0 Finland in 1969

Finland's recent international record is patchy. Not including the technically unofficial King's Cup, the Finns have lost to Israel, beaten Cyprus away and drawn with Georgia. Spain will be a huge test, and at the time of writing, Finland are 25/1 against to win the match and even a draw is 10/1. The Spanish are currently ranked number 1 by FIFA, Finland are 85th.

Most Finnish supporters accept that a group with Spain and France is so steep it's vertical, and that qualifying for the expanded Euro 2016 is slightly more realistic. But a chance to play against Spain will be an experience at least, and hopefully something the players and staff can learn from.

For Finns (and Spaniards) in the UK, ESPN are showing the match live on Friday 22nd March at 1945 GMT.

 Could Mixu pull off a surprise?

The full Finland squad to face Spain: 
Lukas Hradecky, Niki Mäenpää, Jesse Joronen; Joona Toivio, Niklas Moisander, Jukka Raitala, Jarkko Hurme, Markus Halsti, Paulus Arajuuri; Tim Sparv, Roman Eremenko, Mikko Sumusalo, Kari Arkivuo, Rasmus Schüller, Alexander Ring, Toni Kolehmainen, Perparim Hetemaj, Teemu Pukki, Petteri Forsell, Kasper Hämäläinen, Teemu Tainio; Mikael Forssell, Njazi Kuqi, Riku Riski.

The Spain squad to face Finland:

Victor Valdés, Pepé Reina, David de Gea; Álvaro Arbeloa, Raúl Albiol, Sergio Ramos, César Azpilicueta, Gerard Piqué, Nacho Monreal, Jordi Alba; Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fábregas, Sergio Busquets, Santi Cazorla, Javi García, Isco; David Villa, David Silva, Pedro, Juan Mata, Álvaro Negredo, Jesús Navas

Friday, September 07, 2012

World Cup qualifying - group I for impossble?

So it begins again. Just two months after the end of a surprisingly good Euro 2012, qualifying begins for the 2014 World Cup, to be held in Brazil. This time there are nine European groups competing for those spots in the Finals, and of the fifty-three teams involved, perhaps half will have a reasonable shout of getting there. Finland is not in that half.

The Finns are in Group I, with World and European champions Spain, recent World and European champions France, and Belarus and Georgia. A five team group has it's pros and cons, but for a team which has just dropped twenty-four places in the FIFA rankings, the lack of playing two extra competitive games could prove dangerous in the long run. Coach Mixu Paatelainen has stated his goal is to produce a team which can potentially qualify for the bloated Euro 2016, but they'll do well to rack up more than a handful of points this time around.

 Paatelainen knows the size of the task

Finland's last match was an entertaining 3-3 draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast, and it wasn't fun for those fans of quality football, save for the third Finnish goal (a lovely free kick from Përparim Hetemaj). Their first qualifier is at home to a France side yet again dealing with the fall-out after a Euro 2012 which promised much, but ended up with the same in-fighting, strops and player bans.

 The Finns celebrate the third goal in Belfast

With no minnow (or is it Finland?) in the group, points against rivals are crucial, and under new manager Didier Deschamps, now may be a good time to take on the French. France lost their first qualifier for Euro 2012 at home to Belarus, while in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup they lost to Austria, and only just beat the Faroe Islands.

There have been several suggestions in recent years in support of a pre-qualifying competition amongst the lower-ranked nations, where the winners get the chance to compete with the larger nations. Clearly this was aimed to reduce the games between, for example, Spain and San Marino, but how else for the lower ranked teams to meet these opponents?

The French visit Helsinki this evening (Spain visit in September 2013), and while the odds on an upset are slim, Finland need to play the big teams in competitive games to realistically improve their FIFA rankings, especially after the Baltic Cup debacle (the summer matches against Latvia and Estonia were deemed not to count towards rankings as the fourth official was not FIFA accredited).

 Try telling Latvia that the Baltic Cup doesn't count...

The formula for working out ranking points is based as follows:

M (match result, W/L/D) x I (importance of match, eg friendly or qualifier) x T (ranking of opposing team, worked out as 200 minus their current position) x C (their confederation, eg UEFA).

A victory over France tonight would therefore be worth 3 x 2.5 x 185 x 1 = 1387.5, compared to the 99 points they earned for the draw with Northern Ireland. Results like this will be vital if they're to get decent seedings for future tournaments. Their 2012 point average is currently 125, yet the soon to disappear 2008 average is 228 so they're likely to drop much further if they get a bad start in this campaign.

The Finnish fans I speak to will be watching the France game with hope rather than expectation, and even a point will be a good start (worth 387.5 ranking points). But the group is a marathon not a sprint, and we'll see how a competitive Paatelainen side fares.