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Finnish Euro2020 hopes still alive despite defeat to Russia

Finland play their last group game against Belgium, with their chances of advancing to the knockout stage still in the balance.

Teemu Pukki and Joel Pohjanpalo.
Finland's Teemu Pukki and Joel Pohjanpalo at the end of Wednesday's match against Russia. Image: Lehtikuva

Finland lost 1-0 to Russia in the European Championship Group B game at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg on Wednesday afternoon.

A goal just before half-time from Russia's attacking midfielder Aleksei Miranchuk proved to be the difference between the two sides in a hard-fought encounter.

The defeat means the Huuhkajat, or Eagle-Owls, will need to win their final group game against Belgium next Monday to guarantee their passage to the knockout stage of the tournament. A draw, or even a defeat, may also still prove to be enough for Finland to advance, depending on the results of other games.

"It is a stinging loss," striker Joel Pohjanpalo said after the game. "Now all we can do is focus on the Belgium game. We played better with the ball than against Denmark and that's the way we need to play."

The Finnish players warmed up for the game against Russia while wearing white t-shirts carrying the message 'Get Well Christian', after the Danish player Christian Eriksen collapsed and had to be resuscitated during the Huuhkajat's first game of the tournament last Saturday in Copenhagen.

Story continues after the photo.

Huuhkajien Rasmus Schüller lämmittelemässä.
Finland's players sent a message to Christian Eriksen during the warm-up. Image: Lars Baron / Getty Images
Finland had made one change to the starting line-up from the game against Denmark, with Rasmus Schuller coming in to replace captain Tim Sparv in midfield, in what manager Markku Kanerva called a "tactical decision".

The approach looked like it had paid immediate dividends as Finland thought they opened the scoring in just the fourth minute.

Finnish wing-back Jukka Raitala nicked the ball in front of Russian defender Mario Fernandes on the right touchline, before whipping in a curling cross for Pohjanpalo to head into the net. The celebrations were short-lived however, as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled that Pohjanpalo had strayed very slightly offside as the cross came in.

Finland struggled to keep possession of the ball for the remainder of the first half as Russia grew in confidence, and their dominance eventually told just before half-time when Miranchuk curled a rising left-footed shot past the despairing dive of Lukáš Hrádecký and into the Finnish net.

Finland created a series of half-chances at the start of the second half, but strikers Pohjanpalo and Teemu Pukki were unable to convert. Their last chance fell to defender Paulus Arajuuri late in the game, but his header drifted over the crossbar.

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