Finland's 3-0 win over Liechtenstein has led the nation to historic qualification in major international tournaments for the first time in over 70 years. A goal from Jasse Tuominen in the first half followed by a brace from skipper Teemu Pukki after half time was enough for the Nordic Nation to complete their qualification campaign successfully and reach the Euro 2020 main round.
It was way back in 1937 when Finland first appeared in a qualification round for a major international tournament. Since then, the Nordic nation has taken part in 30 qualification campaigns for both the World Cup and European Champions but without success. On the 31st occasion, Finland has finally secured a berth in the upcoming European Championships after finishing second in Group J behind Italy. Six wins and three defeats were enough to see off other teams in the group such as Greece and Armenia. Finland did have the back up of a play-off place secured via the UEFA Nations League, but they can now enjoy their final group game against Greece on Monday safe in the knowledge that they will be in Euro 2020.
The Pukki party
The star of this memorable qualification is undoubtedly their striker and captain, Teemu Pukki. The Norwich City forward has been among the goals and has missed only 19 minutes of action in the qualifiers.
After blanking in the first two games, the 29-year-old has scored nine in the next seven appearances. Though his form with Norwich may have dipped, his performances with the national team haven't, with several of his goals being match winners. He bagged both goals in a 2-0 win over Bosnia and the only goal of a 1-0 victory away to Greece. And even though the goals have dried up for now for Norwich, Pukki continues to be critical for Finland, scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Armenia in the last international break.
Against Liechtenstein Pukki was involved in the build-up to the opening goal, forced a good save and saw a header cleared off the line before getting the goal he deserved from the penalty spot, sending Benjamin Buchel the wrong way to ease Finland’s fears of a comeback, before adding another late on. With all his heroics, Pukki did, however, limp off in the 84th minute with what appeared to be a minor muscle problem.
The Pukki party has surely begun, and with the satisfaction of having led his country to a major European tournament, his goal drought for the Canaries will hopefully end too.Published 17 Nov 2019, 19:50 IST