Pekka Mantyla’s Finland v Russia preview: Finland out to create history again in St. Petersburg
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Finland throughout Euro 2020
What a shocking Saturday night it was in Denmark – in so many ways. I was watching the match in Parken, and I can assure that feelings among the Finnish supporters were absolutely mixed afterwards. Amazing victory in their very first tournament finals match ever – after one shot towards goal and a saved penalty. And yet still all the thoughts are mainly with Christian Eriksen.
But day after day, the victory will taste better for the team. It was a huge surprise to probably almost everybody outside the team. And it opened a remarkable opportunity for the team even to qualify from the group. That lays a huge pressure on Russia’s shoulders – to lose or even tie in St Petersburg against Finland would feel like a humiliation, but if that result lets Finland progress, it would be a disaster.
Finland, though, doesn’t have too many fresh memories about beating Russia. Facing Soviet Union and Russia is very familiar to the team, but the last win the Finns gained against them was at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, before Finland was even independent!
Finland was under huge pressure the whole 90 minutes against Denmark, but the questioned formation of 5-3-2 stayed stable. So there is no reason to talk about changing that anymore. The basic idea will also stay against Russia: Finland wants to build a strong defence and wait patiently for their chances of counter-attacking. The longer the match stays 0–0, the more demanding the home crowd will get.
There hasn’t been any reports about injury concerns, and also the biggest question marks, Teemu Pukki and Tim Sparv, were able to play 75 minutes on Saturday, and Joel Pohjanpalo, who has suffered a lot from injuries, scored a marvellous diving-header, so we have plenty of confidence heading into this huge game.