Comment | Huahkajat already lost the struggle in the handshake – Kanerva has to hide Finland’s weaknesses

If in the previous EC qualifiers, Finland’s strengths were the defensive game and the counterattacks decided by Teemu Puki, defense is no longer one of the strengths, writes HS sports reporter Ari Virtanen.

With squealers there is quite a split European Championship qualification going on. Unfortunately, Finland’s player material loses to the pre-favorites of the group, Denmark, in almost every venue. However, the Finnish team does not pale in comparison to the other teams in the group, but the team’s weaknesses must be hidden.

According to the statistics company MyCoazh, Denmark won the goal expectation comparison by 4-0.75. It says that Denmark should have won the match clearly based on the number of goals.

The 1-3 away loss to Denmark on Thursday bluntly revealed the limitations and inadequacies of the Finnish team against a world-class opponent. There were too many stray passes, lost duels and bad decisions.

In the same breath, it must be said that there were also positive things in the game presentation. Finland tried to play bravely against Denmark, and wasn’t content to simply trickle down to defensive positions.

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Thence it’s been a long time since a head coach Markku Kanerva has dared to put his team in a 4–4–2 grouping against the early favorites last time. On Thursday, three years, five months and ten days have passed since the last time. Then Finland lost 1–4 in an away match in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He said then that he was upset that he thought about what kind of grouping to start the game with and said that it would have been possible to defend better with three toppers. After that, he moved to the three-top line against the early favorites.

Thursday’s choice of a four-man defensive line and occasional high press was bold. Kanerva will probably return to the line of three again.

Huuhkajie’s head coach Markku Kanerva looked thoughtfully at Finland’s opening match in the EC qualifiers.

Teemu Pukki said after the match that 4–4–2 is his favorite way of playing.

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“I am confident that that way of playing will work and we have the necessary players for it,” Pukki said.

If in the previous EC qualifiers, Finland’s strengths were the defensive game and the counterattacks decided by Puki, defense is no longer one of the strengths. The problem was also present in the Nations League last year.

You could already see it in the handshake between the teams, that the size difference was considerable in Denmark’s favor. The Danes looked stronger and faster, and the difference only became more pronounced as the match progressed.

Captain Lukas Hradecky said that Finland was forced to replace a couple of smaller players on the field and at the same time Denmark replaced a couple of 190 centimeter players on the field. “Of course it’s difficult,” he stated.

There has been a big gap in the defense since Paulus Arajuuri, Joona Toivio and Jukka Raitala finished in the national team. They were missed on Thursday. The defensive line built on them was one of the key factors in the victories in the first Nations League 2018 and in the European Championship qualifiers 2019.

There are plenty of good forwards in Kanerva, but now it seems that he needs to find the best possible combination for midfield and defense. Scored a goal against Denmark Oliver Antman must be drawn among the first in the starting line-up for upcoming matches.

Kanerva needs to figure out how to utilize the best qualities of its players and at the same time mask the weaknesses of the defensive game. A draw or a win on Sunday in Belfast against Northern Ireland would keep the Huhkaji’s chances of reaching the European Championships good.

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