Belgium 0 Finland 0

Finland now have to win two games to qualify, without having shown much evidence to suggest that they are capable of doing so. That’s what it boils down to, after a third successive 0-0 left them trailing Poland and Portugal. Portugal play on Wednesday, and a win in Kazakhstan will see them three points clear of Finland. Even if they lose, Finland will still need to go to Porto and win, assuming Armenia don’t pull of a massive shock on November the 17th.

Given the state of the group, it’s difficult to understand why Finland didn’t make more attacking substitutions. No points isn’t that different from one point, but a win would have put Finland in the driving seat and piled on the pressure for Portugal’s two games against the Kazakhs and Armenians.

It’s sad that UEFA saw fit to treat the Caucasians in the way they did, as Armenia have played very well in this group. They would now be breathing down Belgium’s neck if they’d got a few points from their games against Azerbaijan, but UEFA saw fit to cancel them both and award no points. This despite the fact that it was the Azeris who refused to guarantee Armenian players’ safety. It’s a silly precedent. Hopefully they can build on their progress under Ian Porterfield (who died last month) and continue to improve under their new coach, the brilliantly named Tom Jones.

Back to Finland. Hodgson saw a young team last night playing without fear and attacking quickly and with power. They were unlucky not to score and forced the keeper into a few fine saves. Unfortunately they were wearing Belgium shirts. Finland seemed lost, unable to cope with the space and freedom the game was allowing them and not sure what to do as the midfield was stretched ever further from the comfort of the 20 yards in front of Hyypiä and Tihinen.

Hodgson said it was a ‘difficult game’ (twice), which it was. Only two of Belgium’s line up had played in Helsinki, and the youngsters were fired up and raring to go. It didn’t look like an international game, it was too end to end for that. Kompany had a good game, although Johansson got away from him once, Faris Haroun should have scored, and Finland had two goals disallowed (the second slightly dubiously, if I remember correctly). Sjölund could have finished things late on, but when Mika Nurmela came on at the end we knew the game was up.

If Finland win their last two games they have to rely on Serbia not getting maximum points from their remaining three. Värynen should be fit for November, and maybe Shefki will get a game. He really should have come on yesterday, along with Niemi, for at least the last 15 minutes. You’ve got to gamble at this stage, because telling people ‘we’re just a small country’ and ‘we’re making progress’ while messing things up and falling at the final hurdle will get T-shirts made in your ‘honour’, as Antti Muurinen well knows. Let’s hope Hodgson has a masterplan for Porto, and it doesn’t involve a 0-0 draw.

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4 Responses

  1. “If Finland win their last two games they have to rely on Serbia not getting maximum points from their remaining three.”

    Or if Belgium draw or win vs Poland, Finland qualify to Euro 2008, if they win their last two games.

  2. Not if Serbia are level on points, though.

  3. If Belgium draw or win vs Poland, Finland qualify to Euro 2008, if they win their last two games. This is because of Poland only have 2 games left vs Belgium and Serbia. If portugal wins 2 games and lose to Finland, Finland and Serbia win all their games and Poland draw or lose vs. Belgium it’s:

    Serbia 26 points
    Finland 26
    Portugal 26
    Poland 24 or 25

    Serbia and Finland qualify.

  4. Ah yes, I see.

    Wouldn’t stake too much on that happening though.

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