U21: Finland 1 Sweden 1

The respective U21 sides of Finland and Sweden had nothing between them as their friendly match in Turku drew to a close, and the result – one goal for each – reflected the proceedings quite well.

The hosts started the game well, with Tomi Petrescu, Perparim Hetemaj, Berat Sadik and Tim Sparv all causing trouble to Finland’s western neighbours – who, after all, started the scoring. In a sudden wave of generosity, Joni Aho of FC Inter kindly donated the ball to Emir Bajrami. Tomi Maanoja, who was Finland’s keeper in the first half, went to great lengths in order to cancel out Aho’s mistake, but was powerless to resist when Bajrami got another chance from the rebound.

“We started the game well but got too complacent, and it backfired when Aho made the mistake”, commented head coach Markku Kanerva in the post-match press conference, adding that Aho recovered well enough to put in a solid performance after all.

Perparim Hetemaj had to be taken off just before the referee signalled an end to the first half as he suffered what is hopefully a minor injury. More changes were made during half-time: Maanoja made way to Anssi Jaakkola of AC Siena and Aho, Tuomo Turunen, Tomi Petrescu and Berat Sadik accompanied the new AIK signing in the shower.

Among the incoming players was Jarno Parikka, who was released by Mehmet Hetemaj three minutes into the second half. Parikka’s strike saw Finland back on level terms, and no goals were yet to be seen. Sweden were slighly in control for the remainder of the night, but had to face one of the key issues involved with every football game: ball possession does not win matches. They did not cause a remarkable threat, owing in part to the linesman, whose interpretation of the offside rule frustrated Ola Toivonen to the extent that in the end he put the ball in the net despite hearing the whistle blow.

Finland’s first half formation, 4-3-3, clearly worked better than the formation of four midfielders and two strikers they switched to before the second half. However, Kanerva could not be drawn into assessing his tactical decisions. “I am more concerned about who I select for the team and who I leave out”, he assured, declaring that he still has not decided who will be the team’s goalkeeper in the upcoming qualification fixtures against Denmark and Slovenia.

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