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Paatelainen looks to recreate "miracle of Gijon"

Finland’s footballers are looking to repeat what they achieved in March, when they held World and European champions Spain to a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifier in the northern Spanish city of Gijon. Coach Mixu Paatelainen named his squad for games against Georgia and Spain on Monday, and it contained no surprises.

Huuhkajien päävalmentaja Mixu Paatelainen.
Huuhkajien päävalmentaja Mixu Paatelainen. Image: Yle Uutiset

The two teams meet again at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium on 6 September, and Paatelainen was conservative in his player selection.

The squad includes Tim Sparv, who turned down a call-up for a friendly against Slovenia in August so he could concentrate on life with his new club Greuther Fürth, and Perparim Hetemaj, who is suspended for the game against Spain but available for the Georgia match. There was no call-up for  20-year-old striker Tim Väyrynen, who has impressed this season in scoring nine goals for FC Honka in Veikkausliiga

Paatelainen said that he was happy with how the squad had developed and did not see the need for big changes. He is eagerly anticipating the clash, and says he believes the previous encounter will linger in his opponents’ memory.

David v Goliath

”Their playing style is clear, but they also know what happened in Gijon,” noted Paatelainen. ”They know that we can make things very difficult for them, and blunt their attacks. Of course the starting point is David and Goliath. What happened in Gijon does not guarantee anything. I am sure that there is strong motivation in the Spanish team to come and start the game with a bang.”

The Spain match marks the highlight of Finland’s qualifying campaign for fans and players alike, and Paatelainen spoke in support of efforts to persuade Finnish supporters to wear white to the game.

”When the stadium is full it’s a wonderful experience for everyone: supporters, players, backroom staff, coaches,” said the former Bolton Wanderers striker. ”It’s fantastic that the fans have started their campaign to paint the stadium white. Hopefully as many as possible will join in and we’ll see a big contrast between white and red in the stands as well.”

Sources: Yle

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