The inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2018-19 was a big hit with fans across Europe and it’s back again in Autumn, for the 2020-21 edition. While the first tournament was a poor competition for Ireland where we finished rock bottom of our group we still got into a Play Offs for Euro 2020. Which is one of the obvious flaws with UEFA’s complicated Nations League format, but if it means far less ‘meaningless friendlies’ most fans will accept this strange new format.
Ireland will be back playing in NL year, eager to gain promotion into the top tier. Especially with new manager Stephen Kenny in charge.
Ahead of them lie fixtures against Bulgaria, Finland and Wales, and the matchup against Finland in September looks like a particularly exciting one. At this point, of course, it’s going to be a pleasure to watch any kind of live football and place a bet, but Ireland vs Finland is the one Ireland fans are most looking forward to.
The First Competitive Meeting in Over 70 Years
Ireland vs Finland fixtures don’t tend to come around too often. The two teams have only met five times in total, amazingly the last competitive fixture was back in 1949, ending in a 1-1 draw. Ireland have had the better of these fixtures, with three wins and two draws out of the five games played between the teams.
The last meeting between the teams was for a friendly back in 2002, where we came away from Helsinki with a 3-0 win thanks to goals from Robbie Keane, Colin Healy and Graham Barret.
2020 Was Due to Be Finland’s First Euros
Things have been looking up for Finnish football in recent years, and the 2020 Euros were the first major tournament the country had qualified for. Of course, the global pandemic means the Finns will have to wait another year to cheer on their heroes on the world stage. While the fans must be gutted about missing the tournament this Summer, when you have waited all your life to qualify another year won’t make much difference. The Finns have a young team, and they will be hoping the team’s rhythm will not be affected too much. Manager Markku Kanerva, has transformed the team’s fortunes, instilling a superb work ethic built on a solid defence with his trusted 4-4-2 system. He has a nice mix of youth and experience.
Teemu Pukki took the Premier League by storm, scoring five goals in his first three games, including a hattrick on the second weekend of the season against Newcastle. This followed a stellar campaign during which Pukki scored 29 goals in Norwich’s promotion from the Championship. Pukki has 80 caps for Finland, scoring 25 goals in the process. 10 of those goals helped propel Finland to the Euros. He has been the cutting edge goal scorer and the team’s talisman, and is adored by the Finnish public. David McGoldrick and co will have their work cut out keeping him at bay, a mouth watering match up awaits.
Words Alan Phelan