Finland's football fans will have to brush up on their Russian next year after the Euro2020 draw gave them two games in Saint Petersburg, the nearest host city to Finland, either side of the Midsummer holiday weekend.
In a ceremony in Bucharest on Saturday the 'Eagle Owls' were drawn to play against Denmark, Russia and Belgium in Group B of the 2020 European Championship finals.
The good news for Finnish fans is that they will not have to travel very far to support their team in their first ever finals tournament — at least in the early stages —with the Group B games taking place in St Petersburg and Copenhagen.
The bad news is that it's a very tough draw. In two of their matches they will be the away team, facing Denmark and Russia in Denmark and Russia. The third match is against Belgium, who are currently ranked number one in the world by the global governing body Fifa.
"Exciting and inspiring time"
Finland’s captain Tim Sparv, who plays his club football for the Danish side Midtjylland in the Superliga, told Yle he is especially looking forward to the opening game.
"It will be a very significant match for me personally. The Danes think they will win easily. I want to put them in their place," Sparv said.
Although Sparv concedes Finland have been handed a tough draw, he believes the team should aim for the "ambitious but realistic" target of qualifying from the group and playing in the final stages.
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"This is an exciting and inspiring time," Sparv said. "Playing in the the finals has been a big dream of ours for years, so it would seem silly to go there and not aim to reach the knockout stages."
Finland kick off their campaign against the 1992 European Champions Denmark on Saturday June 13 in Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium.
Next up for the Huuhkajat will be a trip to face Russia in St Petersburg — located a mere 300 kilometres from Helsinki —where the 64,000 capacity Krestovsky Stadium will host the second group game on Wednesday June 17.
Finland's final group game will also be in St Petersburg, on Monday June 22 against Belgium, currently the best team in the world according to governing body FIFA’s official rankings.
If Finland were to finish at the top of this group, they would then face one of the third placed teams from Groups A, D, E or F in Bilbao on June 28. A second place finish will see them face the runners-up of Group A on June 27 in Amsterdam. A strong third place finish would mean a trip to Glasgow on June 30 to face the winners of Group E.
Scramble for tickets to begin this week
Finnish fans -- along with supporters of the other 19 qualified teams -- will get the chance to buy tickets via the UEFA website (siirryt toiseen palveluun) when they go on sale at 3pm Finnish time on Wednesday 4 December.
UEFA have allocated 14,000 tickets for fans of participating teams playing in the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, and 20,000 tickets for the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg.
According to the UEFA website, prices for the group stage matches in both cities will start at 50 euros, and over half the tickets being made available on Wednesday will be in the cheapest price category.