Showing posts with label Suomen Cup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suomen Cup. Show all posts

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Finland's darkest hour

It's around this time of year, in late November, when the sun sets on Utsjoki in Northern Finland for winter - not to be seen again until January. Even then it's only for an hour or so, but it's essentially eight weeks of darkness. It's not all bad, it's the best time to see the Northern Lights and the snow does bring some relief.

Image: Pentti Kallinen / Yle

In a similar vein, the sun was supposed to rise on Finnish football on January 1st 2016. The reign of Mixu Paatelainen and his Christmas tree was over, a solid caretaker spell from Markku Kanerva steadied the ship, Hans Backe taking over the job full-time at the turn of the year once his television commitments were finished.

Since then...

It isn't (all) Backe's fault. He's had a rotten run of injuries. At various points, he's been without Moisander, Sparv, Pohjanpalo, Uronen and Hetemaj. He has also inherited a World Cup qualifying group in which Finland were fifth seed because of the FIFA ranking at the time of the draw (90th in July 2015, thanks Mixu). A group containing Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey was always going to be tough, especially with the addition of a Kosovo side who'd never played a competitive game. Certainly harder than the Euro 2016 pool, where third place guaranteed at least a play-off.

Away friendlies were arranged against big teams in Belgium, Poland, Italy and Germany. They were even leading in Belgium in the 89th minute. But...

There is a tactical inflexibility as infuriating as Mixu's 4-3-2-1. Playing seven defenders at home to Croatia, which left about half a mile of space behind Pukki, was knackered as soon as they conceded. Moisander in midfield? I've gone on record saying I'm not his biggest fan, but don't play him there. Of course he then picked up a booking which ruled him out of the Ukraine match.

Moisander v Iceland

The players need to take responsibility. Moisander himself was lucky to play against Croatia after a complete lack of discipline after the injury time goal in Iceland where he grabbed the ref by the collar. Backe's video analyst John Wall has said that "only half of the players" watched the pre-Ukraine footage that was sent to them by mobile phone. Individual errors have directly resulted in conceding goals.

This brings us onto Roman Eremenko. This week he received a two-year ban from UEFA after testing positive for cocaine in a Champions League match between Bayer Leverkusen and his club side CSKA Moscow. Eremenko scored in a 2-2 draw on matchday one. Russian journalists have suggested that the levels in the sample implied that he almost certainly took the drugs on the day of the game. His club have indicated that they will appeal...

Eremenko has probably been the most consistently excellent Finland player at club level over the last two years. He hasn't always brought that form to the national team, but his quality is unquestionable. Assuming the appeal is unsuccessful, he won't be available again until October 2018, at which point qualification will have begun for Euro 2020. Then one has to take into account his readiness - fitness, mental state, motivation, plus he'll be 31 and not played a match in two years. Will he still be on the gear during his enforced break?

There are benefits - his presence in the team arguably slowed things down in the final third, while it may allow younger dynamic players like Robin Lod to flourish in his absence. There are several others in the U21 side who may also benefit, Simon Skrabb to name one. But his absence is another black mark on Finnish football, one which will bring extra scrutiny on players and support staff alike.

The other elephant in the room is the FIFA Ranking. I touched on it earlier, how the rankings are used to decide seedings. Well, under Backe the ranking has dropped to 101st at the time of writing - Finland's lowest since the system came into effect in 1991. Ranked below Syria, Malawi and Kyrgyzstan is a sad day. The methods used to calculate the positions are questioned, but they are based on results. To put it into context, even the defeat to Ukraine will see Finland rise back into the 90s due to the re-weighting of older matches.

Finland have hardly had glory days in their football history - a fourth place in the 1912 Olympic games is their biggest success, with no World Cup or Euro appearance to list. The team of the late 90s came closest, conceding a shambolic last minute own goal equaliser to Hungary cost a play-off match. A generation with Litmanen, Hyypiä, Johansson, Niemi, Riihilahti, Kolkka, Forssell didn't make it. There was no root-and-branch review.

The biggest nations look to themselves when things go wrong. Germany did it after poor showings in Euro 2000 and 2004 (despite a World Cup final appearance in-between). Brazil took some time after their 2014 semi-final humiliation against the Germans, but replacing Dunga with Tite this year saw a massive upturn in form after a poor start to their qualification. England constantly try new approaches but with similar results - constantly looking elsewhere in a bid to establish their own identity.

Several Finnish youth internationals are based at clubs in England, with supposedly access to elite coaching. Keto at Arsenal, Virtanen at Everton, Sundman at Aston Villa to name but three. Their time may come, but they will need regular first team matches. It's a conversation had regularly about Jari Litmanen - would he be allowed to stay in Finland until 21 in the current age, playing regular games and winning trophies?

Domestic league football in Finland has had something of a renaissance in the last couple of seasons, in interest and drama at least. SJK and IFK Mariehamn winning maiden titles after proper title races, Helsinki derbies bringing sell-out crowds and some needle too with a promotion/relegation play-off between the two big Turku clubs. While average attendances haven't jumped, the fact that every Veikkausliiga game is streamed live and some shown on free-to-air TV won't hurt at all. Even the second tier had a strong finish. The PK-35 shambles didn't reflect well however and we can almost certainly look forward to the annual financial scrutiny resulting in some movement within the divisions. We've seen Backe calling up some Finland based players for recent squads - Granlund, Riski, Saksela and Viitala have all been watched.

Ultimately, there's no quick fix for Finland's problems. Palloliitto (the Finnish FA) aren't flush with cash and there are numerous reasons why the changes also need to come at the top. Removing Backe will only work if a proper structure is in place to choose the correct successor, and there is little chance of that happening given the calibre of applicants for the last vacancy. The disparity between international sides is greater than in league matches, there are more mismatches in qualifiers. Backe's recent contact with Wales manager Chris Coleman seemed to suggest a desire to look past his own side, but Finland do not have Aaron Ramsey or Gareth Bale.

At their recent meeting, the weekend of the Eremenko ban news, Palloliitto reminded everyone that the number of registered footballers in Finland is up 7% to over 140,000 players, including 32,000 females. These are numbers to be proud of, for sure. But the context in which these figures were unveiled suggests that everything is fine.

It's a long time until the next qualifier away to Turkey in March and a lot can change. It certainly can't get any worse.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Atletico Malmi ready for Kolmonen 2015

For those of you who have been following ETS over the winter months, you'll have read about our partnership with Helsinki-based club Atletico Malmi. Atletico begin their league season this weekend in the Kolmonen/2 division, the fourth tier of football in Finland (the league structure becomes area and region-based underneath the top two leagues). Their first match is on Saturday April 25th against HIFK/2, the second team of the capital's new club in Veikkausliiga.

It's been a momentous pre-season for my new friends, reaching the fifth round of the Suomen Cup for the first time ever, while preparing for another season in a new division, hosting and winning a friendly tournament in the Mosa Cup and competing in the Regions Cup, a cup competition for lower division clubs (a sort of FA Vase).

The 2015 Mosa Cup champions!

The Ketonen brothers Jesse and Jonne have been the big scorers up front, with nine and eight goals respectively, but there's a big squad of players who have all been contributing goals and assists. It's the teamwork that led the side to the last 32 of the Finnish Cup, where they met Veikkausliiga club FC Lahti, who came third in the top division last season and will compete in this year's Europa League. Unfortunately the match ended 2-0 to Lahti, but Malmi made a big impact on a national level, including someone landing on this site searching "Who are Atletico Malmi?" - hope it helped!

The boys training hard - a Finnish 'rondo' - rondi?

Malmi general manager Janne Vottonen told me how vital it is that the club rely on sponsorships and working with local organisations - 100 Euros pays for three training sessions on artificial pitches, while website and jersey sponsorships are also available if you're that way inclined. Any interest is greatly appreciated, feel free to contact me if you want me to get that ball rolling. It's a lot more rewarding to help a team improve and grow, rather than being just another customer at some clubs.

Janne said this week that while there are no official targets for the club this season, but conceded that "the top three would be realistic for this team". With the ground covered already this year, the trajectory will surely continue upwards. ETS will be bringing regular updates on the season, but you can follow Atletico Malmi on Facebook and Twitter.

Tico Tico!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tulos: Pukki, season tickets and Britpop

Another slow fortnight or so since the last Tulos. Here's a quick summary for those of you who have been away...

A superb offer for fans of teams in the western division of the Kakkonen in 2015. Season ticket holders at either of the three clubs in the post are also able to attend the home games of the others, so over forty matches for the price of one season ticket, as little as 50 Euros in some cases.

Teemu Pukki knows how to time things - 48 hours before the announcement of the next Finland squad (for the Northern Ireland game), he scores for Brøndby in their 2-0 win over OB.

With more speculation in England about the introduction of academy teams into professional leagues, I wrote for Put Niels In Goal about how the teams fare in Finland, featuring the Suomen Cup ties between teams from the same club... Featuring the joint team huddle of HIFK/3 and HIFK/4 (below).

Finland's FIFA ranking continues to drop, now just five places above their previous worst of September 2012.

The latest ETS interview was with Finland ladies midfielder Annika Kukkonen, who gave some excellent answers relating to gay players, sexism in the sport, and Gangnam Style...

The latest draw for the Suomen Cup was made on Monday by Jari Litmanen - he should be made to make every draw, he pulled out some absolute stunners. TPS v Inter and JanPa/Atletico Malmi v FC Lahti are particular highlights. One big shock result of round four was KPV defeating top division side Jaro 3-0.

Fifth round draw - looking forward to it already

Last update is a bit of an ego boost - I'm very honoured to have been included in a list of the top football blogs to follow in 2015, by Left-Wing Soccer. There are some wonderful writers on there, and they're all well worth a few minutes of your time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Atletico Malmi update

For those of your who've been paying attention, this season I've decided to join forces with a lower division club to raise their profile, to find out a little bit more about football in the capital and also to share some knowledge (I work for an English non-league club).

You're welcome!

So it was Atletico Malmi of the Helsinki Kolmonen/2 division (fourth tier) who got in touch. Since January, the club have progressed through to the fourth round of the Suomen Cup for the first time in their history, where they'll play JanPa on Sunday March 22nd in Janakkala.

If you're planning on visiting the Helsinki area this summer, you could do a lot worse than visit a Malmi league game, where you're guaranteed a warm welcome. Their division fixtures are on this link, get yourself along to a game or two.

With the current exchange rate being very favourable for those who shop in pounds, you're also welcome to sponsor the club. There is a link (in Finnish) to more information, but they're welcoming of any creative input which would help. I paid 100 Euros for a spot on the website, which paid for three training sessions for the team. Even a shirt sponsorship would be available, albeit for a fair bit more than what I paid...

I've had a couple of enquiries about replica jerseys, I've been told they're just awaiting a few more details.

Other shirt sizes should be available...

Keep following the club on Twitter and Facebook for more info. Tico tico!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Suomen Cup quarter-final summary

It was quarter-final day this Monday, and as usual, it was a complete nightmare to try and keep up with what was happening. Excuse any assumptions made.

FC Jazz 0-3 RoPS 

The lowest ranked team left were FC Jazz, currently of the Kakkonen Länsilohko (west), hosted RoPS, conquerors of HJK in the previous round. The rule that lower division teams get home advantage kicked in again, and 812 people turned out for the tie.

Any notions of romance lasted eleven minutes, when Emenike scored the opening goal. He then doubled the lead on 38 minutes. RoPS waited until the 2nd minute of injury time for Aleksandr Kokko to make it 0-3. FC Jazz come back down to earth with a bump, with president Tomi Leivo-Jokimäki joking that he'd have to cancel his flights for the 2015 Europa League final…

Emenike does a Lee Sharpe (photo via Kari Mankonen)

RoPS progress to the semi-final, where they will host IFK Mariehamn in a repeat of the Veikkausliiga season opener (won 1-3 by Mariehamn).

Honka 1-2 IFK Mariehamn 

2012 cup winners Honka crashed out in a close game, witnessed by (just) 526 people. IFK Mariehamn rested star man Petteri Forsell, and after a goalless first half, things woke up.

Diego Assis opened the scoring after 51 minutes from the edge of the area (deflected), but that was equalised within six minutes as Honka's Kastriot Kastrati scored his fourth goal in three games after an impressive one-two. Jamaican striker Dever Orgill capitalised on his recent good form by heading in the winner, 11 minutes from the end.

There were six yellow cards in the match, but the Islanders won't mind. They've earned themselves another 1234km trip (one way) to Rovaniemi.

Highlights of Honka 1-2 IFK Mariehamn


Perhaps the most surprising result of the round was in Vaasa - VPS had made a good start to the season, sitting fourth in the Veikkausliiga and only three points off the top. JJK meanwhile are sat at the bottom, two points from six games, and only scoring in two of those.

Another goalless first half, but the visitors scored twice (on 75 and 84 minutes). Babatunde Wusu got the first from a huge punt upfield, and Patrick Poutiainen secured the win with a late counter-attack. 

Perhaps the cup is offering some relief for JJK. Either way, they have three months now to concentrate on the league, and in the semi-final they will host KuPS.

Highlights of VPS 0-2 JJK
Haka 1-2 KuPS

The only other non-Veikkausliiga side also perished in the last eight, recently relegated Haka pushed 2012 runners-up KuPS to extra time though. The highest attendance of the round (1354) in Valkeakoski saw 120 minutes between two of last year's bottom three.

KuPS started with the recently re-signed Chris James, but there were no goals in the first half. According to Haka's official Twitter feed, Dudu had been caught offside eight times in the first half, but it was he who scored the opener on 64 minutes. But Haka scored in the dying seconds, Venance Zeze with the goal.

Juha Pirinen hurdles Etchu Tabe (photo via Tomi Vuokola)

So to extra-time, but it was KuPS in-form striker Ilja Venäläinen who won it from the penalty spot with ten minutes of the second period remaining, after Dawda Bah was fouled. KuPS travel to JJK in the semi-final.

So the semi-final draw:

RoPS v IFK Mariehamn

Matches take place August 17th 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Suomen Cup sixth round summary (and draw)

I hadn't planned on doing a blog in relation to this week's cup ties, but they turned out to be very interesting indeed... So I'll just do a couple of lines for each match so you can keep up.

PS Kemi 0-2 VPS

Kakkonen Pohjoislohko (third tier north) side Kemi Kings hosted top flight VPS, fresh from defeating TPS 0-1. Kemi held their opponents to a goalless first half, but in the first minute of the second half, Ville Koskimaa and Patrik Lomski scored the goals to take the Vaasa side through. VPS will host JJK in the quarter-finals.

VPS keeper Henri Sillanpää claims the ball (photo via Pohjolan Sanomat)

TPV 1-3 FC Haka

Tampere club TPV, of the Kakkonen Länsilohko (third tier west), hosted twelve-times winners FC Haka on Wednesday in front of 707 people in Tampere. The Ykkönen favourites took the lead through Juha Pirinen on 32mins, but the underdogs equalised straight away through former Haka man Mohamed Koroma. But goals from Tomi Petrescu (free kick on 40 minutes) and Jussi Aalto (56) sent Haka through. They face a home tie with KuPS in the last eight. Here are some excellent photos from the match by Petteri Lehtonen.

Sunny arsed Haka (photo via

BK-46 0-0 JJK (aet, JJK won 1-4 on penalties)

Another Kakkonen side, BK-46 (of the Etelälohko, or Southern, division) hosted Veikkausliiga opponents JJK, and were close to the biggest shock of the round. As expected, JJK bossed it, but even their official website admitted that as the game went on, the confidence of the home team increased. After 120 minutes, the match went to penalties, but the away team won 1-4. JJK will travel to VPS in the quarter-finals.

JJK's Mikko Innanen prepares to take a corner (photo via Edi Lindberg)

TPS 2-3 IFK Mariehamn (aet)

An all-Veikkausliiga match in Turku ended up becoming the tie of the round. The visitors took the lead just before half-time, on-loan Petteri Forsell scored from a cut back. After the break, TPS took the lead through goals by Ääritalo and Tanska, but Mariehamn sub Dever Orgill equalised and sent the game to extra time. Forsell scored again in the third minute of extra time, and inflicted a second successive home defeat on TPS. IFK Mariehamn progress to a last eight tie at holders Honka.

Highlights of TPS 2-3 IFK Mariehamn

FC Jazz 1-0 JIPPO

Another Kakkonen Länsilohko side FC Jazz were in action against Ykkönen club JIPPO, and it was the home side who prevailed. It was defender Joonas Salo who scored the only goal of the game, after 56 minutes. Even infamous JIPPO trick shot keeper Lassi Hurskainen couldn't keep that out. FC Jazz are the only Kakkonen side in the last eight, where they will play at home against RoPS.

FC Jazz scorer Joonas Salo (photo via FC

FC KooTeePee 0-1 FC Honka

Holders Honka travelled to Kotka as their cup defence progressed. The Ykkönen side lasted nine minutes against their higher level opponents, Ghanaian defender Gideon Baah headed in from a corner after early pressure. Only 275 people witnessed a match which saw several chances for both teams, but Honka stay in the tournament. They have a home tie against IFK Mariehamn in the quarter-finals.

Highlights of FC KooTeePee 0-1 FC Honka

FC Lahti 1-2 KuPS

A rematch of one of the Liigacup semi-finals, but with a different outcome. KuPS had suffered an indifferent start to the season (draw with MYPA, defeat to Jaro), while Lahti's draw with RoPS looks like being forfeited due an ineligible player. KuPS went into half-time a goal ahead, Aleksi Paananen scoring on 31 minutes. Miikka Ilo doubled the advantage after 65mins, before Lahti sub Rafael pulled one back. But 2012 runners-up KuPS held on, and face a trip to FC Haka in the last eight.

Leaping for the ball (photo via Katja Luoma)

RoPS 1-0 HJK

What ended up being the biggest shock was in Rovaniemi, as champions HJK lost at RoPS. HJK had made changes to the team which defeated Honka on Monday, but would still be surprised to lose. It was a Ville Saxman goal in the second half which made the difference, after 56 minutes. HJK made the long trip by plane, but the trip back will have felt like longer. Defender Nikolai Alho tweeted that the flight was full of young Justin Bieber fans, which won't have helped. RoPS play FC Jazz in the next round.

HJK's Teemu Tainio (in yellow) keeps the ball from Saxman (photo via Lapin Kansa)

Quarter-final draw

FC Jazz v RoPS 

FC Honka v IFK Mariehamn


FC Haka v KuPS

(Matches to be played in the week beginning May 20th)

Semi-final draw

FC Jazz/RoPS v FC Honka/IFK Mariehamn


(Matches to be played in the week beginning August 17th)

Monday, February 04, 2013

Kuningas Litmanen Part I - Growing up in Finland

(Before I start, I've decided to separate my look at the Kuningas Litmanen documentary into separate parts - I appreciate a lot of my Finnish followers will have already seen it, but this is aimed at the English market who would otherwise not have watched. It's not strictly a review, more just an accompaniment).

The film opens in Amsterdam to the singing of crowds, the backdrops of the Amsterdam Arena, of the Nou Camp, and the famous This Is Anfield sign. Dutch sports journalist David Endt speaks about how Litmanen is heart, watching him is like jazz. Photos of Jari in action for MYPA, Ajax and Barcelona merge into one another.

The first real action clip is from a match between Reipas (who became FC Lahti after merging with FC Kuusysi) versus OTP in April 1988. It's been snowing, the players are in tracksuit bottoms. If you can look past the stonewashed denim and blond mullet, a very slight, nimble Reipas forward wearing number 17 has his back to goal, throws himself in the air, and strikes the ball cleanly into the goal.

Fast forward 22 years to September 2010, to the 87th minute of AC Oulu v FC Lahti, and the score is 1-1. A ball is tossed into the penalty area, where a slight, nimble Lahti forward wearing number 10 has his back to goal (12 yards out), chests the ball expertly, and scores an acrobatic bicycle kick. Jari Litmanen's goal won the match for Lahti, but unfortunately didn't save them from relegation.

Jari's overhead goal for Lahti in 2010

We meet Miska, who had a rather elaborate tattoo of Jari on his left thigh, in his words "the undisputed king of Finnish football", in celebration of one of the coolest goals in history. Former Ajax teammate Edwin van der Sar talks about how he saw the goal on the internet and couldn't quite believe it, how he's still exceptional.

We return to Lahti in 2010, at the unveiling of a statue in honour of Jari, and we meet a fan who has travelled all the way from China to meet his hero. Current Finnish president (then head of the FA) Sauli Niinistö calls Jari an ambassador of football, Finnish football and Finland. Jari himself hopes that the statue is more durable than himself...

The statue of Jari in Lahti

Jari's father Olavi talks of the time when Jari was only a couple of months old, how the stadium noise would wake him. His father was a Reipas player himself, spending his entire career with the club. Jari's mother Liisa played for Reipa's women's team in the 1970s, and spoke about how her and Jari would play football in the garden, as well as Jari practising on his own in the garden, knocking flowers all over the place.

It's in this section where we first meet Jari, dressed in a purple roll-neck jumper eating sushi. He talks about the day when he was younger, wanting his mother to get his football from the shed, despite the weather being -20c. When mother refused, he broke the glass. Even his dad said that he'd have been punished but it was for football so he relented...

Suave Jari

Lahti coach (and Jari's friend) Tommi Kautonen talks about how focused Jari was from a young age, that it was obvious he'd leave Finland after his army days. When a junior, he'd often play in teams one or two years older than himself.

Jari talks about playing in the 1980 Helsinki Cup, where he scored the winning goal against Tuusula Palloseura. His scrapbooks are getting plenty of airing in this film. The next clip is a news report from when a 16-year-old Jari scored in the Lahti cup final, after just 60 seconds. Jari reveals his embarrassment at receiving an electric razor as a prize, when he wasn't quite ready to shave for a while yet...

Jari and his trophy (and razor)

Jari takes us for a walk around the Lahti suurhalli, where he'd play football before, during and after school. Legendary Finnish football 'custodian' Gunnar Yliharju saw him and enquired if he was a truant "Why doesn't he go to school"?

Scoring his eighth goal of the season for Reipas

Jari made it into the first team at Reipas, and an interview after a match in which he said football was his priority over school. Before long, he received his first international call-up, for Finland against Trinidad and Tobago in October 1989. National coach Jukka Vakkila spoke of how he had heard that Jari was too slow at international level, but he promoted him from the under-21s and it was a fine moment as they won 1-0. 

Jari on early international duty

Vakkila goes on to praise Jari's natural first touch, and his amazing ability to read the game. His ability to make mediocre players better, and to improve the ryhthm of a game is the sign of a good player.

One of Litmanen's later national coaches Roy Hodgson spoke about how he wanted to sign him while he was in charge of Swiss club Neuchâtel Xamax in 1991, but he was on his way to coach the Swiss national team and Jari apparently saw it as too much of a risk.

Jari talks of his training camp in Barcelona with Johan Cruyff in 1991, describing it as quite an experience for a Finnish boy to train with Koeman, Stoichkov and Laudrup (as well as referencing a young Pep Guardiola). That was the famous 'dream team', who won the European Cup at Wembley the following year.

A young Jari with Johan Cruyff (far left) in 1991

The film quickly moves around his spells with HJK and MYPA, interspersed with talk of his army career. There was also cursory mentions of enquiries made by Leeds United and PSV Eindhoven. Jari spoke about how good an education HJK was.

It was during this spell that sees perhaps the biggest insight to Jari's personal life. His cousin died in a motorcycle accident while Jari was in the army, and it affected him hugely. Jari is fighting back the tears as he describes his cousin as a big brother. His cousin had played football as well, and it helped drive Jari onwards, as it's what his cousin would have wanted.

MYPA 1992, also featuring a young Sami Hyypiä

Jari signed for MYPA in 1992 in a surprising move, as MYPA themselves admitted he was probably too good to remain in Finland. He didn't stay long, but he won the Suomen Cup with them in July 1992, his first senior trophy. Hyypiä speaks knowingly about Jari, that his abilities would take him far.

Litmanen's goal in the 1992 Finnish Cup final (from ESPN)

It was at MYPA that he first noticed Ajax scouts watching him, and that's where we'll press the pause button. The next part of the documentary will take Jari to Holland, we'll have a look at that later on this week.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Escape To Suomi - A Year In Review

This site was born in June 2012, not long after the start of the Finnish league season and something to do while watching the European Championships. As the year has gone on, we've provided summaries of matches, the hot topics of the moment, and some other pieces which have required a lot of work.

As is tradition, it's time to look at the five most read articles on the site since it's inception, and hopefully gather some feedback.

Number 5 - Suomen Cup final preview

Written the night before the final, the blog previewed Honka v KuPS. Both sides were unlikely to qualify for the Europa League through league placing, and Honka were looking for a first cup win, with KuPS not having won it since 1989. In the end, Honka won the final 1-0, however the aftermath was dominated by controversy after both clubs were fined due to over-zealous support from the travelling fans.

Photo courtesy of Vartaloharhautus

Number 4 - The 1912 Finnish Olympic football team

Conceived during the London Olympics, and some cursory glances through the record books showed the Finland came fourth in the men's football event. Not bad given that they've never qualified for a World Cup or European Championship. More interestingly, it brought the tales of smuggler Algoth Niska and journalist Eino Soinio to a wider audience after the article was picked up and adjusted for esteemed football site In Bed With Maradona.

Eino Soinio

Number 3 - King Litmanen - The Movie

Kuningas Litmanen was the documentary released this autumn about Jari Litmanen. The movie was a big success, reporting big takings for a documentary and also getting an airing at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. The film is out now on DVD, and features talking heads from such luminaries as Louis van Gaal, Steven Gerrard and Dennis Bergkamp. A full review of the DVD will appear on this site in the new year.

No mention of what the deleted scenes are

Number 2 - Carl Jenkinson

One of the big talking points amongst Finnish football fans and writers was about Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson, who had represented the Finnish U21 team, via his Finnish mother. After a fantastic start to the English season (standing in for the injured Bacary Sagna), the debate soon hit English shores. Under FIFA rules he was allowed to change allegiance once, and after being invited to train with England, he then made his full debut as a substitute in a friendly against Sweden.

 England's Carl Jenkinson

Number 1 - European prize money

As Finnish clubs progressed in European qualifiers (well, HJK and KuPS at least), the financiers were rubbing their hands at the prospect of the money on offer, as well as the potential for the lucrative group stages. KuPS made it as far as the third qualifying round (losing to Bursaspor), while HJK lost to Celtic in the Champions League qualifier and then Bilbao in the Europa League play-offs. Both will have done reasonably well, KuPS in particular grateful for the money as they posted 2012 losses of 200000. Financially challenged Honka could benefit from a decent run in 2013/14, it was only confirmed last week that they have met the UEFA licensing conditions.


For 2013, I'll be continuing the weekly Veikkausliiga reviews, and inviting submissions for articles about Finnish football or Finns abroad. I'll be attending the World Cup qualifier against Belarus in Helsinki in June, and against France in Paris in October, so hopefully more about the international team as well.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Suomen Cup final 2012 - Honka vs KuPS

Whose name will be on the cup this year?

This season's Suomen cup reaches it's climax this weekend with the match between Honka of Espoo and KuPS of Kuopio. Both teams have tasted recent defeat in finals, and have a chance to write their names in the history books. KuPS have won the Suomen Cup twice in their history, most recently in 1989; yet Honka have never won the trophy.

The clash between eighth and tenth place in the league this weekend represents their only chances of playing continental football - KuPS reaching last year's final provided them with this season's surprising run to the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

For Honka, this has been a wait of four months since their penalty shootout win over holders HJK at the end of many. They were runners-up in 2007 and 2008, losing on penalties to Tampere (07) and after extra-time to HJK (08), are they due some success? As the higher-placed team in the league, they may think that they are the slight favourite, and at the time of writing, they are with the UK based bookmakers.

 Honka after their semi-final win

But will they be able to pull it off? KuPS have been poor domestically this season, yet seem to be able to win one-off games, including Turkish side Bursaspor in Europe. Despite losing the final last year to the 'home' team, they've returned again, and despite their slight underdog status, they're no pushover. Unfortunately they spent midweek getting used to the Sonera turf losing 4-1 to HJK... Maybe they're lulling Honka into a false sense of security?

KuPS in their 1-0 win over Bursaspor - this is their chance for a repeat

This is a big game for both sides, and a chance for silverware and a 25,000 payday (plus the associated money for competing in Europe in 2013). Glory is within touching distance, and next season we could be using a photo such as this...

2011 champions HJK