Cup update and round-up

Okay, I know: my last update was appallingly inaccurate. It was the Fifth round not the sixth, and the game kicked off a mere nine minutes after I’d concluded that there couldn’t possibly be a semi-professional match taking place there. This is, I suppose, a good indication of football’s underground guerrilla-like standing in Finland, when games can take place entirely unnoticed by anyone in its vicinity. Never mind.

The day after that, I went to Tammela to get drunk and watch Ilves. It was a lot of fun, but the weather was grey and miserable so the crowd was quite poor, with just 444 people turning out. It was clearly a ‘big match’ though, and Ilves are definitely, incontrivertibly a big club. They out rank HIFK on the merchandise-ometer, for starters, with two full tables filled with Ilves jalkapallo goodies at very reasonable prices.

The game was, as expected, very even. Janne Salli held the Ilves defence together, and TPV created very little. Asked to pick the Ykkönen team out of these two, I would have picked Ilves. It was no surprise when Majamaa put them 1-0 up early in extra time. Here he is celebrating, photo courtesy of Petteri:

Jarno Majamaa scores the first goal for Ilves against TPV

You can see many more of his excellent Finnish football photos at his website.

In Veikkausliiga, TPS continued their remarkable start to the season with a 4-1 defeat at Lahti. Sadik was in storming form, scoring one and creating two, and he will surely be off to a bigger league soon. You can see highlights (complete with loan-sharking adverts – you stay classy in this global credit crunch, Iltalehti) here.

So what the hell is going on at TPS? It’s something I’ve been wondering, watching the erudite Martti Kuusela and the tanned and feminine Simo Valakari (the highest paid player at TPS, injured for the season) performing their punditry duties for Euro 2008 matches on YLE. You have to wonder what exactly Finland’s Newcastle are going to achieve this year – they’re comfortably mid-table, but look unlikely to trouble the European placings.

That’s not a good return on Seppo Sairanen’s investment, and a crucial next two matches could put Kuusela under pressure – if they lose to Atlantis in the cup and go out of the Intertoto to Lisburn Distillery, both entirely possible results given their current form, it might be hard to justify keeping him in post. I don’t expect them to sack Kuusela, he’s a massive name in Finland and admitting a mistake at this stage would not reflect well on the club hierarchy, but something is going wrong at TPS and they need to sort it out fast.

A sad lament for Helsingin Sanomat’s Pressikatsomo, which has published its last post. Hopefully the writers involved already have new projects, especially Kristian Sundqvist, whose stuff about Jaro, attendances and Finnish football in general is very good indeed. HS’s football coverage does not have a good reputation among fans here, and as we get both HBL and HS I can see where that view finds support. Still, there are other good Finnish bloggers about, notably Ari Virtanen at Nelonen, Mikko Knuutila at Ilta Sanomat, and Elias’s project Kulmapotku.

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