Showing posts with label finland u21. Show all posts
Showing posts with label finland u21. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Interview with Finland U21 forward Vahid Hambo

The latest interview for the site is with Finland U21 striker Vahid Hambo, who in summer 2015 signed for English Championship club Brighton and Hove Albion. At the time of writing this, Brighton are top of the table and still unbeaten. Vahid started 2015 in scintillating form to earn his big move. Thanks again to Vahid for his time, you can follow him on Twitter here.

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Brighton have made a great start to the season, what is the atmosphere like at the club?
We are still top of the Championship and unbeaten this season, and that's always good. I think everybody has developed a strong winning mentality, so people at the club will be very disappointed if Brighton doesn't finish in the top three places this season.


What are your personal ambitions for the season?
I had a long ankle injury at the start of the season, then I was fit for two weeks and played in one under-21 game. Unfortunately I now have a knee injury (torn meniscus) and will be out for another two months... So we will see again after that.


You earned the nickname “Finnish Zlatan” before your move – what do you think of that name?
Haha it's funny, but I don't take any pressure from it - because there is only one Zlatan!

Has having (Finland goalkeeper) Niki Mäenpää at the club helped you settle in?
The club have helped me a lot. I now see Niki almost everyday at training ground. If I need something, I can always ask Niki.

Brighton has a reputation for being a very liberal place to live – what’s your favourite part of the city?
I'm living in Hove, around 15 minutes walk to the town centre, and only two minutes from the sea front. I don't have a favourite place yet, but I love being close to the sea.


What was the best experience of playing for Sampdoria’s academy side?
I don't know, probably everything! I learnt a lot about how strikers should move in the box and during the game. That was maybe the biggest thing. But also playing against the best young Italian players, that is where you see the level of play compared to Finland.

There was some talk of Bosnia showing interest in your career (Vahid's parents are from Bosnia, he was born in Finland) – is it something you’ve considered?
Yes of course, but I've always played for Finland, and I've never had any proper contact from Bosnia so there's nothing to think about at the moment...

Who was your footballing idol growing up?
When I was younger, I liked to watch Ronaldinho. But at the moment, I don't really have an idol.


Brighton re-signed Bobby Zamora in the summer, has he taught you anything yet?
I haven't really trained with him because of my injuries, but you can see in him that he has a lot of experience and is such a good professional. He has already scored a lot of important goals for us.

Have you had any Brighton Rock yet?
Haha no I haven't, yet!

My thanks again to Vahid - coming soon, an interview with Finland's futsal captain Panu Autio, once I get round to translating...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Interview with KuPS defender Dani Hatakka

Yet another interview, this time with Finland U21 defender Dani Hatakka, who has recently signed for KuPS after leaving Honka. Enjoy.

Dani in his new KuPS colours - photo via KuPS.fi

You were the second highest scorer at the recent Commonwealth Cup with four goals - is that something you've worked on over the summer?
To be honest I've been focusing on different kind of things during the pre-season other than scoring goals, but I've always been quite strong in set pieces. In the ComCup, I guess I was just in a right place at the right time four times! Unfortunately I couldn't reach the top scorer title which was only one goal away!

Dani celebrating his four goals - photo via the Commonwealth Cup website

One of your goals was a fifty metre shot from a free kick - was that the best goal you've scored?
Well at least it was the most memorable goal so far but I'd like to think that my best goal is still coming somewhere in the future..

Hatakka from the half-way line - Vine via Oskari Karppinen

You were at Honka until recently, under difficult times. Did the uncertainty about the debts and future affect the players?
As crazy as it sounds, I think the players at Honka were used to our salaries not being paid on time. Of course we worried what will happen to our club and for us players. One thing we can proud of was that when it was time to go train we trained 100% professionally and there was no space for uncertainty.

You were the first team to be managed by Shefki Kuqi, was he as passionate behind the scenes? Did he encourage the players to swan dive after goals?
Shefki is very passionate when it comes to football. Behind the scenes, he is a very warm and kind person.

After a bad start last year, KuPS improved hugely under the new coach - how well do you think KuPS will do in 2015?
So far we've had a really good pre-season and I really feel there's a purpose, whatever we do in training. We haven't played well in the LiigaCup but I feel very confident and I can't wait for the season to start!

Which players do you watch closely to learn from?
I watch Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry very closely.

Dani in action for Honka against KuPS - photo via Heikki Saukkomaa

A lot of Finns have a favourite English team to follow, which do you support?
I don't really have a team of my own. Because I watch Ivanovic and Terry playing that way, I kind of cheer for Chelsea.

You spent some time with Udinese in 2012, did you get to meet any of their big names? Did it give you a taste for playing abroad?
Yes, I had the honour to meet some first team players such as Antonio Di Natale. It was a great experience for me to see a big organisation like Udinese so closely. I spent the week with Sulley Muntari's younger brother who also trained there at the same time. I still speak with him every now and then.

What's your favourite bit about Kuopio? Have you been up the Puijo Tower yet?
It's hard to choose one favourite bit, although I like living here. I have a good group of friends, a nice apartment with a view over the harbour and Lake Kallavesi. Kuopio is quite a small city but still there's quite a lot going on. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to visit Puijo Tower yet. I think I'm gonna wait for some nice day in the middle of summer to go there.

Nikolai Alho and Jesse Joronen have both told me about their 325 Media project - have they tried to get you to join in as well?
Haha, no, but I wonder why?! I think we've had so many national team trips together so they know that I wouldn't add any value to their music haha! It's great that they have a good thing going on outside of football and I'm impressed every time Niko releases a new song.

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So there's another interview - I've had a couple of messages with suggestions, I'm working on those!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tulos: Things you may have missed

Some family friends of ours were visiting from Finland this week, the topic of social media popped up. They work for a online sports channel focusing on extreme sports, EpicTV, and were more than happy to talk about their experience. Essentially, Kirsti and Panu said that I should be looking to focus more on Facebook. Twitter is excellent for instant and current news, but hardly a place to catch up at your leisure. As such, I post and link to several stories which may be missed unless you're on at the time.

So I've decided to summarise the stories of interest with one blog post, I think the term is 'ICYMI'. Anyway, here's what has happened in the last couple of weeks. Future blogs will be shorter, covering perhaps a fortnight at most - the below covers most the year so far. Feedback, as always, is welcome!

Cricket scores in the Helsinki futsal third division...




Finland U21s reached the final of the Commonwealth Cup in Russia, losing 2-1 to South Africa. Their semi-final win over Turkmenistan saw two moments of bravado from the Finns. Moshtagh Yaghoubi and Dani Hatakka were involved, well worth remembering.

 


Finland played two internationals in Abu Dhabi - they defeated Sweden 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Yemen. The sides were mostly made up of Nordic based players, but outstanding performers in the Sweden game were Lukas Hradecky and Petteri Forsell, with a debut international goal for Roope Riski.

Former Chelsea youth player Nortei Nortey had a trial with Jaro, but failed to earn a contract.

The 2015 Liigacup began, wins for Ilves and Inter and a draw between IFK Mariehamn and HIFK. Make a note of the fixtures and results here.

The farce/saga over Veikkausliiga places rumbles on, as MYPA were denied a licence to play in the top division in 2015, Ilves promoted in their place. They have since applied to play in Ykkönen but have also appealed the decision. At the time of writing, this is still to be decided. KTP meanwhile took Honka's place - Honka will now play in Kakkonen going under the name of FC Esport Honka.

In the annual FIFPro tournament in Norway, Finland's team of free agents lost both of their matches on penalties against Ireland and Norway. Player of the tournament was former RoPS striker Aleksandr Kokko, who spoke about his desire to play abroad.

Finland defender Markus Halsti signed for MLS club DC United. He played in this season's Champions League for Malmö.


Despite several media reports of tedious speculation, Niklas Moisander confirmed that he would remain at the club until the end of the season, where he is likely to move to a Serie A club, possibly Lazio or Roma.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interview with Nikolai Alho

In the latest in the ETS series of interviews, HJK and Finland U21 international Nikolai Alho tells me about qualifying for the Europa League group stage, his musical projects... And supporting Burnley?

You can buy Niko's latest single Gimme All Dat on iTunes - click here for more info, see below for the video.

Nikolai Alho 
After scoring your free-kick in Vienna, and qualifying for the group stage, how have you found playing in the Europa League compared to Veikkausliiga?

After scoring it felt amazing. To be part of making history in Finnish football was amazing. Of course the European games are a lot harder than Veikkausliiga games. The biggest difference is the tempo of the passes and speed of the game. But we have done very well with our team. In my opinion this is the best HJK team for a decade at least.

Niko celebrates HJK's win over Rapid Wien (photo via Faneille)

What was it like to line up opposite Barcelona in August?

Playing Barcelona was a dream come true, in it's own way. It was a great experience for the whole team, or at least us younger players. Barcelona players are pure class, haha. Never seen players that good on the ball!

HJK and Barcelona line up, Niko is front and centre

You’ve started your own media company, what are your hopes for the future for the company and as a recording artist?

Yup, 325 Media is a start up production company owned by me, Valtteri Moren and Jesse Joronen. Our aim is to do videography, photography and music production in out own style. It is something to do on our spare time from football. Hopefully when we are older and our football career is over we can then start doing more of it. For now its just a part time thing. As for my music, I'm releasing a five song EP in December. After that I won't be releasing music for a while. I hope to move next year and play somewhere in Europe.

 

On your Instagram, you post regularly of your latest clothes – have you any plans to do any clothing lines?

Yes, Instagram... I'm on it a lot and kind of addicted, to say the least! Yeah, I'm into fashion and clothing. But, I haven't really thought about opening my own clothing line!

Niko the fashionista

 Plenty of Instagram material

In the past you’ve mentioned supporting Burnley, what’s the story there?

Yup, my Mum is from Burnley, so that's the story there. Simple and sweet.

Is there any country that you’d love to play in during your career?

I would love to play in Central Europe or England. For the first move, I would also like to play in one of the top clubs in Sweden.

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So that was Niko - make sure you follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

More interviews will be coming over the winter!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Interview with Finland international Tim Sparv

In the latest interview on ETS, Finland and FC Midtjylland midfielder Tim Sparv generously answered some of my questions. Make sure you follow him on Twitter and catch up with his regular column for Pohjalainen.

Tim in action for Finland v Hungary in March 2014 (Getty)

You're a well-travelled man. How is Denmark different from the other places you've played in? Would you advise youngsters to move abroad to sample new countries?

I'm lucky to have experienced so much already. Denmark and FC Midtjylland is a more laid back place than for example my last club in Germany. Not saying that they demand less from you, the work ethic and attitude in training is very good, but there is definitely a more relaxed atmosphere here. Quality-wise there's no real difference between Groningen, Greuther Fürth and FC Midtjylland. In my current club we have a great mix of experienced players having played abroad and our own youth players coming through the academy.

My advice to talented young players is to be at a club where you have good coaches and other talented youngsters to train with/against. If that's in Finland or abroad, it doesn't matter. There's also a difference between individuals. Some are mature enough to move abroad at a younger age, others are better staying closer to home. There's no right or wrong, you have to do what you think is best for your own development.In the end it's up to yourself. How much are you willing to sacrifice to become the best you can be. We can try and improve the facilities, coaching and so on, but if you don't have the will and discipline, you won't have a career in professional football. 

Tim in purple for Midtjylland v Panathinaikos (Getty)

You spent time at Southampton as a youngster. Does their excellent form in recent years surprise you? With Bale, Walcott and Lallana doing so well, were there any others there at the time who you thought would make it as far?

They're second in the table (at the time of writing), that surprises me of course. That they had to go down to League One, because of a few bad decisions, to re-build was also not something I expected. Saints are a Premier League club, so it did hurt a bit following their collapse. I'm glad to see they're back where they belong, and I'm especially glad for my friend and former team-mate Dusan Tadic and the way he's been playing since he arrived.

Along with the names mentioned, there were also Nathan Dyer (now at Swansea), Leon Best (Derby), Dexter Blackstock (Nottingham Forest), Matthew Mills (Bolton), Andrew Surman (Bournemouth) and a few more who showed potential. The player who stood out from the start was Theo Walcott. He was the youngster everyone was talking about back then.

 Tim the Saint in the 2005 FA Youth Cup final (Getty)
 
Do you plan on taking what you've learned into coaching at some point, perhaps in Finland?

That's possible. I can't see me leaving football, I love it too much. Coaching and scouting is something I'm very interested in. It would be nice to perhaps work in or around Vaasa one day, if we decide to move back. Maybe working with younger players as well. Time will tell.

What experiences do you remember most about being involved in the 2003 World Youth Championship and the 2009 European U21 Championship?

In 2003 I didn't play a minute in the actual tournament. I was a year younger and came in at a later stage. And to be fair I wasn't physically strong enough then. But the whole experience before the tournament, with trips to Chile and the US was incredible for a young boy coming from a small village on the west coast. It opened my eyes.

The U21 Euros was result-wise a disappointment. With Spain, England and Germany in the same group, we knew it would be difficult. But the whole two year project leading up to that tournament was in so many ways a dream. Winning the group and eventually beating Austria in the play-off game on penalties in Turku. And doing it together with the best group of players and staff was very emotional. Being the captain, having that responsibility, scoring goals and being a part of something so big was from an individual point of view a definite highlight in my career.

Tim scores a penalty against Joe Hart, Euro U21 championships, 2009 (Getty)

Have you enjoyed writing your column for Pohjalainen? What sort of subjects can we look forward to in the future?

I've enjoyed it for sure. I'm maybe not the typical footballer in that sense, then yet again, what is a typical footballer nowadays? But nonetheless I'm someone who likes to do things besides my work. To develop myself and to get my mind off football and maybe prepare myself for the future. It is a good way for me to get my thoughts out on paper and perhaps write a bit about things relating, mostly, to sport and people.

When you visited London last Christmas, what did you enjoy most about it?

Well, not the shopping in the city centre along with what felt like the rest of the world... Horrendous! The best was an Christmas Day when I met my Dad, who I didn't even know was in London, and had some wine and whisky. Me, my girlfriend and my Dad talked for hours until late at night. Good times. I'll be off to London again this Christmas, this time with friends. Spurs v United will be the highlight of the trip.

What time is it? (Tim's Instagram)

As a Manchester United fan, what do you think would improve their recent performances? Does being a professional player make it easier to see their failings?

One centre back and one defensive central midfielder. They've made some great signings, and Louis van Gaal is a good manager. His aura and tactical ability will suit Manchester United just fine. But they are nowhere near Chelsea, who I regard as the best team in the country at the minute. A place in the top four would be an OK start in his first season in charge.

You do see things in a game as a footballer that maybe someone else wouldn't. You see things happen a few steps before. Part of United's problem, if you don't count the individual mistakes, is that their balance in the team is off. Their attacking is a joy to watch but they're leaving to much space for the counter attacks. A bit naive and undisciplined I'd say.

Tim v France in Euro qualifying, September 2012 (Getty)

Finally, would you agree with the argument that more teams qualifying for Euro 2016 means that more teams are genuinely confident of making it to France? With sides like Iceland and Northern Ireland starting so well, does that inspire the Finnish squad even more?

Yes. More teams qualifying means a bigger chance for everyone. Even the smaller teams now have a realistic chance. It's great to see so many upsets already, now it's our turn to start upsetting some of the bigger footballing nations out there.

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Many thanks to Tim for such insightful answers. Coming soon, we have an interview with HJK's singing winger Nikolai Alho, who has just launched his own media company. Hopefully over the winter there'll be a few more chats as well, I just need to pull my finger out...

Monday, February 11, 2013

The IV KOMIA tournament 13th-16th February

The second tournament of the week takes place in Seinäjoki, from Wednesday 13th to Saturday 16th February.


Here is a rundown of the teams involved, and details on how to attend.

SJK

Hosts of the tournament, and silver medallists in the 2012 Ykkönen. Their playing squad includes two British players, in Welsh defender Richard Dorman and English midfielder Chris Cleaver. Scheduled to play FC Inter and VPS, so a good test against top flight opponents.





Finland U21s

The U21s get a run-out as well, and good experience for a lot of players from the Finnish league. Only Daniel O´Shaughnessy of Metz is involved from abroad. The players have been involved in a training camp recently, and learned their opponents for the next Euro U21 qualifiers, including tough opponents in England and Wales. Scheduled to play Mjällby and Nõmme Kalju.

Mjällby AIF

Famous Swedish club, who finished 12th in the Allsvenskan in 2012. Under new management, but will still be a test for their opponents, who will be Finland U21s and Nõmme Kalju.
Nõmme Kalju

The 2012 Estonian champions (for the first time). Previous experience of playing Finns after playing Honka in the Europa League in 2011, and lost in a friendly to FC Inter last week. Will play Mjällby and Finland U21s.






FC Inter Turku

Runners-up in the 2012 Veikkausliiga, their only victory coming back in 2008. Have lost Mika Ojala and Joni Kauko but brought in Tamás Gruborovics from JJK. Inter still have 2012 league top scorer Irakli Sirbiladze to rely on for goals, but he's injured and won't feature this week. Only one point from three Liigacup matches so far. Will face SJK and VPS.




VPS

8th in 2012, their joint best finish since their return to the top flight in 2006. But VPS have lost their Jamaican striker Steven Morrissey (now in Denmark), and only one point from their opening three Liigacup matches. Will play Inter and SJK.








Saturday will see matches to decide 5th/6th place, 3rd/4th place, and the final. The matches will take place in the Wallsport Arena, and tickets for all matches are available here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Finland U21s discover the road to the Czech Republic

After all the chat, explanations and stilted humour of a morning in Nyon, Finland finally learned who they will have to face in order to get to the Euro 2015 tournament in the Czech Republic.

Finland U21s, picture from Suomen Palloliitto

Let's have a quick look at who they'll have to face, if they want a summer holiday in a couple of years...

England

Finland played Stuart Pearce's England U21 in the opening game of the 2009 finals in Sweden. Lee Cattermole gave England an early lead, before Tim Sparv scored a penalty. A second half goal from Manchester City's Micah Richards gave England the win. England went on to the final, where they lost 4-0 to Germany. Finland lost all three matches in the group stage. The two teams also played in qualification for Euro 2002, the first match was 2-2 in Finland, England won the return 4-0.

Kasper Hämäläinen vs England in 2009

Wales

Wales were the opponents in qualification for Euro 2004 (group 9), and Finland opened with a 2-1 win - goals from Pekka Lagerblom and a late winner by (then Liverpool forward) Daniel Sjölund ensured three points, despite an equaliser by Adam Burchill. The return tie in Merthyr Tydfil saw a goalless draw. Italy won the group, Finland third and Wales fourth.


Mathias Lindström gets stuck in

Lithuania
 
The teams faced off in qualification for Euro 2013, and saw away wins in both ties, starting with a shock in Turku - Finland were 3-1 up at half-time, only for the visitors to score twice, then a last minute winner. They met again four weeks later, and while Lithuania went ahead early, three second half goals won it for the Finns. Finland ended the group fourth, Lithuania fifth.

Finland trudge off after losing at home to Lithuania

Moldova and San Marino

Finland have never faced either team in UEFA u21 competition.

Depending on fixtures (yet to be announced), and locations, ETS will be hoping to attend the matches in England and Wales. Watch this space!

Friday, July 06, 2012

In profile - Joel Pohjanpalo

On 15th April 2012, HJK Helsinki opened the defence of their Veikkausliiga championship at home to IFK Mariehamn. A new season, a chance to stake their claim for the new season. HJK started slowly, and with 70 minutes gone, the visitors were leading 0-1. Up stepped 17-year-old striker Joel Pohjanpalo, making only his second start for the club... 162 seconds, and a perfect hat-trick (head, left foot, right foot) later, Pohjanpalo was on the map.

Joel's hat-trick

Joel is a product of the HJK youth system, and played for the reserve team (Klubi-04), scoring 33 goals in just 26 games at the third level of Finnish football (Kakkonen Eteläinen, Southern section) in 2011, before making his full first team Veikkausliiga debut against RoPS.

That seems to have attracted the attention of some of the bigger clubs in Europe. Joel had trials with AS Monaco and Liverpool, where he reportedly turned down the offer of a contract in order to stay in Finland.

On international duty

His scoring record in 2012 has been excellent, scoring three goals in the Liigacup (including one in the final), and scored the winner in the top of the table clash with Inter Turku back in May. He's also made his Finnish under-21 debut this summer, and scored in a 1-2 home defeat to Ukraine.

What next for Joel? He's clearly shown that he's prioritising minutes on the pitch than a big money move, which for a seventeen year old is vital. HJK open their Champions League campaign this month, another big experience, even if they don't reach the play-off stage.

Liverpool probably isn't the best choice anyway, certainly not for the moment. A new manager is settling in (again), and it's likely he'd get no further than reserve team football and maybe a loan spell. Perhaps in a few years. Even Monaco would have been a better option, certainly less pressure.

Whatever happens, whether Joel goes on to become a world class star, or goes on to do nothing in the game. He'll always be the player who hit a perfect hat-trick in two minutes. I know you want to see it. Here it is...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Carl Jenkinson - stick or twist?

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

Jenkinson trains with Finland

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

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

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

Carl in his old bedroom

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