Veikkausliiga transfer update

The new year has seen a flurry of confirmed transfers, as well as a few trials that might lead to permanent moves. Some clubs are busier than others, with one in particular seemingly in the business of fire-fighting rather than planning for the future right now. Tampere United have seen chairman Jari Viita depart, after a season in which they lost around €200,000. Viita’s company lost €2.7m last year, and he is not in a great position to bail out TamU.

Winter recruitment has therefore been a painful process for TamU, with 17 year-olds Johannes Mononen and Juha Pirinen joining the club from Jippo and Haka respectively, and Aleksei Kangaskolkka signing from MyPa. While the chance for youth to shine is welcome, the somewhat frantic efforts to offload TamU’s saleable assets point to a less settled strategy.

Tomi Petrescu has signed for Ascoli on a loan until the 15th of April, with the option to make the move permanent at that point, while Henri Myntti is bewilderingly spoilt for choice as he ponders which club to sign for. Myntti is a freakishly tall player, who used to be a blunder-prone centre back but was converted last season into a Veikkausliiga goal machine, playing up front for TamU and heading everything that came his way and bagging 13 goals in 23 league games.

Myntti went to FC Saturn on trial at the end of last season, signed an improved contract with TamU, and is now on trial at Hansa Rostock after apparently turning down a move to Romania. More on the fun and games at Ratina Stadium later in the week.

HJK full back Jukka Raitala is on trial at Newcastle United. Raitala had a good season with HJK, playing 23 games and impressing with Finland’s successful under-21 side, and has attracted attention from Greece as well as West Bromich Albion, where he had a trial in the autumn.

Other current trials include FF Jaro’s central defender Jonas Portin, who is currently at NEC Nijmegen, and Brazilian midfielder Luiz Vanderlei, who MyPa are looking over. Vanderlei has been at Tornio club TP-47 for the past two years and adds a touch of class to teams in need of a playmaker.

Finland v Austria Under 21 European Championship play-off second leg LIVE BLOG

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I’m heading to Turku tomorrow and will do a live blog of the game. They’ve sold 4,700 tickets, the Greek press is reporting that AEK are there to watch Finnish players, and the game is actually going to be shown on Finnish TV, on channel Viisi/The Voice. All very exciting, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Perparim Hetemaj and Tomi Petrescu are suspended for Finland, with Jussi Vasara and Nicholas Otaru rcoming in to reinforce the squad. Franz Schiemer and Rubin Okotie are suspended for Austria.

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.

Berat Sadik heading south?

This blog is a long-standing supporter of Berat Sadik, and so we were over several moons when he made his debut for the national team last week. He looks set to move abroad as well, with interest from Palermo, Bielefeld and Larissa making it difficult for Lahti to hang onto him.

His contract expires at the end of this season, but has an option for 2009 – either party can cancel that in July, though. That means he will not bring in too much revenue for Lahti if and when he does move on, an all too familiar scenario for Finnish clubs.

Sadik played for a strong Under 21 side that beat Poland in Jyväskylä last night. In front of a crowd of around 1,400, he came on for Jarno Parikka late in the game with Finland already leading through Nicholas Otaru’s 58th minute goal. Perparim Hetemaj, Mehmet Hetemaj, Tim Sparv and Tomi Petrescu all played.

If all of them stay fit and firing there is a good chance Finland will get into the play-offs for the 2009 European Championships, which will take place in and around Gothenburg. To be sure of finishing top, they need to win both remaining games against Denmark (in Turku on the 9th of September) and away against Slovenia four days later.

The senior Finland team is in much worse shape right now. The game against Belarus was scrappy and disjointed, and only a last minute equaliser from Tony Kallio saved their blushes. Afterwards Baxter mentioned that he wants to achieve a 4-1-4-1 formation, in an effort to achieve better structure in the team. The ‘dress rehearsal’ for the World Cup qualifying campaign will be against Israel on the 20th of August in Tampere. Baxter should be playing his first choice team then.