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Finland’s Eagle-Owl footballers continue to soar with 2-0 win over Greece

Second half goals from Pyry Soiri and Glen Kamara make it four wins out of four for Finland in the Nations League

Glen Kamara oli loistovireessä Ratinassa.
Finland's Glen Kamara celebrates with teammates. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva.

Finland cemented their place at the top of UEFA Nations League group C2 with a 2-0 victory against Greece in front of more than 10,000 spectators at Tampere’s Ratina Stadium on Monday evening.

The Huuhkajat (or Eagle-Owls) came into this game with an impressive recent record, having not lost a competitive international game since a 2-1 defeat to Ukraine in June 2017. This sequence of seven games without defeat has included five 1-0 victories, a testament to the solid defensive organisation that head coach Markku Kanerva has instilled in his team.

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Finland and Greece line up before their Nations League group C2 game at Tampere's Ratina Stadium
Finland and Greece line up before their Nations League group C2 game at Tampere's Ratina Stadium Image: Ronan Browne / Yle News

Kanerva made just one change to the side which started the 1-0 win over Estonia in Tallinn on Friday night, bringing in the Tampere-born Glen Kamara for Rasmus Schuller. However, he was forced to make an unexpected - and very unwelcome - change as early as the tenth minute when top-scorer and talisman Teemu Pukki had to be substituted after a robust tackle by Greek defender Michalis Bakakis.

Despite this setback, the home side took the game to their opponents as captain Tim Sparv and the 22-year-old Kamara began to exert their influence on the game from the centre of the field. Finland’s best chance of the first half fell to central defender Paulus Arajuuri but his effort was comfortably saved by the Greek goalkeeper Vassilis Barkas, and the teams went in at half-time with the score still at 0-0.

Immediate impact

Finland were first out onto the pitch for the start of the second half, and their enthusiasm was very soon rewarded when just 52 seconds after the restart a deflection fell into the path of Pyry Soini on the left-hand side of the penalty area. Barkas advanced to narrow the angle but Pyry’s left-foot shot squeezed past the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.

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Finland's Glen Kamara launches another attack during the first half
Finland's Glen Kamara launches another attack during the first half Image: Ronan Browne / Yle News

Greece, the one-time European Champions, were now compelled to attack but Finland’s defense held firm and the Greeks were restricted to taking shots from distance that never troubled Lukas Hradecky in the Finnish goal. As Greece committed more men forward, gaps began to appear in their defence which were nearly exploited on a number of occasions by the new central attacking partnership of Robin Lod and Jasse Tuominen.

On 67 minutes Lod, formerly of Greek club side Panathinaikos, clipped a clever ball over the top for Tuominen to run on to but his effort was saved by the on-rushing Barkas. Lod went even closer on 79 minutes when his left-foot shot from just outside the box hit the post. The rebound fell to Soiri but he contrived to blast the ball over the bar from just five metres out.

Greece pressed again but were unable to create any clear-cut chances for their frustrated forwards. With the stadium clock showing 89 minutes played, Lod received the ball out wide on the left and appeared to be heading towards the corner flag in an attempt to let the seconds tick by, as two Greek defenders pursued him. Instead, he quickly turned inside, leaving the two defenders in his wake, and pulled the ball back to the edge of the box for Dundee midfielder Kamara to score his first international goal in only his sixth appearance.

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Players and fans celebrate at the end
Players and fans celebrate at the end Image: Ronan Browne / Yle News

The little that remained of the game was played out to the sound of boisterous singing from the home support, and Polish referee Pawel Gil’s final whistle was greeted with a huge roar that reverberated around the ground.

Last night’s other game in the group finished in a 3-3 draw between Hungary and Estonia, which means that Finland sit very comfortably at the top of the table with a maximum possible 12 points after four games. With just two games left of the group stage to be played in November - the return game against Greece and an away game in Hungary - Kanerva’s side are now in an excellent position to win the group and earn promotion to League B.

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