Finland money

Finland Women’s Euro 2022 team guide: stars, players, coach, tactics, expectations…

Insight

Finland were pretty happy after the Euro 2022 qualifying draw, having been paired with Scotland from Pot 1 and Portugal from Pot 3. It could have been a lot worse, so to speak. 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 dramatic finish, Finland equalized from a last-minute corner, with Anna Westerlund blocking a Portuguese defender for Linda Sällström to score.

And that set the tone for the rest of the campaign, with Finland making a habit of scoring important goals late. In Finland, 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 into the goal.

Then “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 fine stoppage time goal to secure qualification for England 2022.

Coach, Anna Signeul, has been in charge since 2017 and she sticks to her proven 4-4-2 formation. They rely on a stingy defense that only conceded two goals in qualifying. However, in the Tournoi France in February against high-quality opponents such as France, the Netherlands and Brazil, they scored eight goals in three games, struggling with defending from set pieces and crosses.

Finland try to play on the counter-attack but, as the full-backs are heavily involved in the attack, this often leaves space behind them. This summer they are in the death squad 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 all of our games 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. And after the qualifying campaign, a new assistant coach, Lars Mosander, also left. There have been suggestions that his leadership is poor, but no one has said anything in public.

The coach

Sweden’s Anna Signeul is a very experienced coach and took Scotland to the Euros for the first time in 2017. She left the job after 12 years later that summer to take charge of Finland. “Jesse Owens once said that if you think you’re going to get beaten, you’ll be beaten. If you think you can win, you can win. And I believe in it,” she once said. The head coach’s contract expires at the end of the year and no one will be surprised if she leaves after the Euros.

star player

Natalia Kuikka has already been voted Finnish Player of the Year three times and she is only 26 years old. An extremely versatile player, she began her career in attacking positions, playing for example as a left winger at Euro 2013 at the age of 17. In her club team, Portland Thorns, she plays right wing but Signeul moved her to central defense for her country. She is a criminologist with a degree from Florida State University, where she won the NCAA championship and was voted one of the Guardian’s Top 100 Players of the Year in 2020 after winning Damallsvenskan with Kopparbergs/Gothenburg FC. No other Finnish player made this list. “My time in Sweden was my first taste of being a professional football player,” she told herfootballhub.com, “and it really taught me how to be one, how to step up and what it means to be a professional player.”

Wildcard character

Eveliina Summanen is the next Anne Mäkinen in midfield for the Finnish national team. She is practically the only young player to have taken a place in Signeul’s starting lineup. She’s a box to box player who tackles hard, has a quality shot and is also quite good in the air (though not the tallest). Summanen reached a milestone in January 2022 when she moved from Kristianstad in Sweden to Tottenham. She will be the key player for the foreseeable future and scored the only goal as Finland beat Scotland 1-0 in Euro qualifiers. “It was the most important goal of my career so far,” she said after the match.

Likely alignment

4-4-2/4-4-1-1:

Goalkeeper: Tinja-Riikka Korpela

Right-back: Tuija Hyyrynen

Right central defender: Anna Westerlund

Left central defender: Natalia Kuikka

Left back: Emma Koivisto

Right winger: Adelina Engman

Central Midfielder: Eveliina Summaen

Central midfielder: Emmi Alanen

Left winger: Sanni Franssi

Second Striker/Striker: Ria Öling

Attacker: Linda Sällström

Bubbling under: There is an opportunity for Koivisto to play at left wing. Then Elli Pikkujämsä will probably play left-back and Sanni Franssi probably on the bench. BUT: Anna Signeul very rarely made any changes to the permanent line up.

heroes of all time

For her longevity and goalscoring record, it has to be Laura Österberg Kalmari. She represented Finland between 1996 and 2001, winning 130 caps. Only Anna Westerlund has more international appearances for Finland than her. She is also second on Finland’s all-time goalscoring list (behind Linda Sällström) with 41. One of those goals was a 2-2 equalizer against England at Euro 2005 (although Finland eventually lost the match 3-2), having already scored the first goal against Denmark in this tournament. At club level, she won the Women’s Champions League in 2003 and 2004 with Umeå IK and finished her career with NWSL founding member Sky Blue FC. She now lives in Stockholm, where she is a teacher and junior football coach.

history of the euro

Finland made their tournament debut in 2005 and faced England at the oddly named City of Manchester (now the Etihad) stadium. They gave the hosts a run for their money, coming from 2-0 down to equalize but eventually lost to a Karen Carney goal in stoppage time. After a 0-0 draw with Sweden, the Finns beat Denmark to advance to the semi-finals, their best result ever. There, however, Germany were too strong, winning 4-1. Four years later, Finland hosted the tournament and progressed serenely to the quarters where they gallantly lost to England with the same scoreline as the last tournament, 3-2. In 2013 Finland needed to beat Denmark in their last group match to reach the knockout stage but drew 1-1 despite a big chance towards the end and in 2017 they did not qualify .

Realistic goal this summer

Finland are in a very tough group, with Spain and Germany considered world class and Denmark reaching the final of the last Euros. If Finland get more than one point it would be a great achievement and maybe history is on their side – they were drawn with Denmark in their group all three times they were in the final and haven’t lost to them yet.