European Under 21 Championship Qualifying: Finland 2 Denmark 1

So, FInland are in the play-offs. A good performance from everyone, with special mentions for Juha Hakola, Tim Sparv and substitute Jarno Parikka, and it was a good attendance too. The support from the Finland fans was mentioned in Niklas Hägen’s excellent report in HBL, in particular that there were songs to the tune of YMCA and the “hakkaa päälle” chant (something like “go and get them”, I’ve only heard it in war movies but someone will doubtless be along to correct me).

Speaking to journalists after the game, Tomi Petrescu (who scored the game-winner) expressed his delight at the number of fans.
-I’m glad the fans have interest in our U21 team too. I loved hearing their chants and support, Petrescu said.

I was most impressed with Hakola, probably because he plays for FC Flora in Estonia and I’ve not seen too much of him before. It was his flick that set Mehmet Hetemaj free for the opening goal, and he seemed to scare the Danes whenever he had the ball. Turunen and Portin were the pairing in central defence and were rarely troubled until the final minutes, when Finland’s midfield collapsed to the 18 yard line, and the exclusion of an in-form Joni Aho shows the strength in depth at this level.

Head coach Markku Kanerva singled out Hakola and the central defenders too, but first and foremost he wanted to give credit to the whole team.
-We knew it was going to be a tight affair, but the whole team wanted to win. I am very proud of my players.

I would have no qualms about this team being promoted to the senior squad en masse, if Finland fall out of contention for the World Cup. They are not the finished article, but they never will be if they don’t get a chance at the top level.

Stuart Baxter, head coach of the national team, went down to the dressing room after the game and personally congratulated the team.

The Danish side, on the other hand, are out of the play-offs. They were seemingly frustrated after the game, and goalkeeper Kasper Smeichel even did his best to redecorate the dressing room area.

Finland will play an away game in Slovenia on the 9th. The play-off draw will follow three days later. Kanerva did not want to speculate on the draw yet.
-No matter who we play, we have two difficult games coming up. I don’t want to speculate on the opponent. Regardless of who we will be playing, we have enough time between the draw and the first leg to find out as much as we can about our opposition, Kanerva told the journos.

  • EDIT* All the quotes come from Juha, who was actually at the game. I just watched it on telly.

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