This article is part of The Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Expert Network, a cooperation between some of the top media organizations from the 16 countries that have qualified. theguardian.com is streaming daily previews from two countries ahead of the tournament which begins on July 6.
Finland were pretty happy after the playoff draw, having been paired with Scotland from Pot 1 and Portugal from Pot 3. It could have been a lot worse. So Finland set out to deliver results with a key result to come in the final game of 2019, in Portugal on a gruesome pitch near Porto. In a spectacular finish, Finland equalized from a last-minute corner, Anna Westerlund blocking a Portuguese defender for Linda Sällström to score.
This set the tone for the rest of the campaign, with Finland making a habit of scoring important goals late. In Scotland, it was Amanda Rantanen who scored a late winner in the most dramatic and bizarre circumstances. A breakaway move led to Rantanen going one-on-one with the goalkeeper. His shot hit the keeper, bounced off her face and bounced into the net.
After that, all Finland had to do was beat Portugal at home on a very cold day in Helsinki. Again they took their time but in the end Sällström scored a nice stoppage time goal to secure Euro 2022 qualification.
Coach, Anna Signeul, has been in charge since 2017 and sticks to her proven 4-4-2 formation. They rely on a stingy defense that only conceded two goals in qualifying. At the Tournoi de France in February against high-quality opponents in France, the Netherlands and Brazil, however, they scored eight goals in three games, struggling with defending from set pieces and crosses.
Finland try to play against, but as the full-backs are heavily involved in the attack, this often leaves space behind them. This summer they are in the ‘group of death’ with Germany, Spain and Denmark, but that doesn’t seem to worry Signeul. “The group is exciting,” she said after the draw. “All teams can compete, and the overall strength of the group means we don’t have to win every game to qualify.”
A small pre-tournament concern is that Signeul’s back office staff has changed several times over the past few years. Assistant coach Maiju Ruotsalainen and fitness trainer Anne Mäkinen left at the end of 2019 and new fitness trainer Lasse Lagerblom said goodbye the following year. After the qualification campaign, another assistant coach, Lars Mosander, also left. This led to questions about Signeul’s leadership style, but no one said anything in public.