Baxter’s dress rehearsal: Finland 2 Israel 0

Stuart Baxter said that the Israel game would be a dress rehearsal for the Germany match in September, and he was pretty relieved that it went as well as it did. The high spot was Veli Lampi’s full debut, as the former TPS right back looked solid and put in some excellent crosses including the one from which Jonatan Johansson nodded in the first goal. Roman Eremenko also had a good game, playing some excellent through balls to Mikael Forsell and generally looking calm and assured. Jari Litmanen had a decent cameo, setting up the second goal from a free kick and linking up play well when Finland were beginning to tire.

Both coaches commented on set pieces after the game. Baxter said that he was pleased with the way they executed them offensively and defensively, and that 50% of all international goals come from set plays. That figure apparently goes up to 65% when you include set pieces that are cleared and then come straight back. The Israeli coach Dror Kashtan said that he was very disappointed with their defending at set pieces, they practice those situations and should know how to deal with them, but also that Finland deserved the win because they controlled the play in the first half and Israel didn’t take advantage when they had the edge in the second.

That period of play followed an incident that enraged the Finnish players. Maor Buzaglo, a livewire 20 year old winger who came on at half time, went down clutching his leg after a robust challenge from fellow substitute Tony Kallio. The ball was kicked out to allow Buzaglo to receive treatment, but instead of waiting for the physio’s magic sponge the Maccabi Tel Aviv man jumped up, sprinted down the wing to receive the throw in, and put in a cross for Ben Sahar (who, showing he’d learnt a lot from his time on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, promptly sliced it wide).

Baxter reckoned this upset the Finns’ concentration, and I agree with him. Israel had a lot of chances after that and should really have scored at least one of them.

One other thing mentioned in the press conference was that Finland tried a few things that they thought might upset Germany, but they didn’t want to say what they were. Having seen the German central defenders’ pace and mobility, I reckon its possible that one of these things was playing lots of through balls for Forsell to run on to.

I should have a word for Tampere’s response to the game, and that word should probably be ‘terrible’. The crowd was less than 5,000 and most of those braved uncovered seating on a day that had been dominated by pissing rain. the whole crowd could have squeezed into Tammela and nobody would have risked getting wet (it didn’t actually rain during the match, but it did for 6 hours solid up until a few minutes before kick-off. I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t already have a ticket).

Tampere needs a proper football stadium with proper facilities for the fans, and Ratina is not it. Visitors from Helsinki described the toilets as ‘worse than a wall to piss against’, and the atmosphere as ‘appalling’. When the attendance was announced a chant of ‘Helsinki’ went up, and it’s difficult to disagree with ithe sentiment. This game should have been played in Vaasa, Kotka, Kuopio, hell, maybe even in Pori? They are attracting big crowds to Kakkonen games there, they would surely have sold out an international. It’s clear that Tampere does not have the facilities for international football, and the enthusiasm is not there to hide that definciency at the moment.

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