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A Welcome Draw in Ghent for Finnish Footballers

Finland's men's football team drew 1-1 with Belgium on Wednesday night. Roni Porokara grabbed a late equaliser for the Finns after Alex Witsel had put Belgium ahead.

The game saw debuts for five Finnish players in caretaker coach Markku Kanerva's first game in charge. Sebastian Mannström, Hannu Patronen, Joon Toivio, Riku Riski and Ilja Venäläinen made their bows for Finland.

Mika Ääritalo thought he had equalised for the Finns in the 78th minute when his header from a Mannström cross hit the post. Belgium's goalkeeper Silvio Proto scooped the ball out to keep Belgium ahead, even though Ääritalo thought it had crossed the line.

“You could say that competition for places is definitely increasing,” said Finland coach Kanerva afterwards. He praised his new-look defence, after Finland played without veterans Petri Pasanen or Sami Hyypiä, and complimented Sebastian Mannström on an excellent pass for Porokara's equaliser.

“It'll be nice to go into the dressing room tomorrow, I guess it'll be pretty quiet in there,” grinned matchwinner Roni Porokara, who plays his club football for Germinal Beerschot in the Belgian Pro League. He has been playing for the Antwerp side since November.

Finland's next friendlies will be against Bolivia and Portugal in March. Kanerva's contract covers those matches, and a decision will have to be made on whether or not to extend his deal, or to hire a different coach, by April at the latest.

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