Markku Kanerva, the head coach of the men’s national football team, realized the Finnish football people’s dream of a value tournament venue a year and a half ago. After the Corona Pandemic’s postponed European Championship finals, the long wait is finally over and games can begin. But what are the head coach’s worst fears and biggest dreams before historic races?
When The European Championship tournament starts on June 11, is the head coach of the Owls Markku Kanerva, 57, faces the biggest challenge of his career. In an interview with HS, he explains how the competitions have been prepared for, what still needs to be taken into account and how the Finnish men’s national team can succeed in its first ever major competitions.
You have had a lot of experience as a head coach, but hardly any experience fully matches it when you are the head coach of Finland in the first European Championship tournament match in history. What do you experience and think then?
“It probably has emotions on the surface because it’s been long overdue. It is a unique opportunity. I think at the point where the song Our Land echoes and we sing it, it’s definitely an emotional moment when you realize everything is really coming true. I think the players have the same feeling. ”
“I hope we also have a safe feeling. In such a way that all the preliminary preparations have been made and the best possible players have been obtained on the field. ”
“Ultimately, though, it’s a football game. When a game starts, it’s about that game. We have a game plan and I have to lead the team. During the match it [erityisyyttä] there won’t be much thought, but the game will take with it. When a match day arrives with its expectations and trips to the stadium, it can be a roller coaster of emotions. Hopefully there will be positive, good feelings after the match. ”
“I was wondering if there were any days when I wouldn’t have thought about an European Championship tournament. It doesn’t immediately come to mind. After securing a place in the race in the Liechtenstein match [15. marraskuuta 2019], certainly at some point every day I have been thinking about the tournament. ”
“I’ll tell you a little anecdote. I was cycling and there is a nursing home nearby. The old lady walker said the point would start otherwise the European Football Championships. The old lady said, oh right. The walker said that Finland has reached the final tournament for the first time, that now there will be exciting places. The lady replied that they must be looked at. It tells you how widespread a certain kind of enthusiasm has spread. That’s fantastic. ”
Do you feel like you’ve done everything possible for the races, what can you do?
“We are on a pretty good model. With confidence. Things have time to be completed before the race starts. ”
“Because of the corona, there have been various uncertainties. It was a welcome thing that we get to have 26 players. It gives you room to maneuver. Players don’t run out right away. The downside is that three players must be left out of the match. ”
You have to keep your fingers crossed that the rehabilitating star striker Teemu Pukki is fit to play in the competition.
“It’s just like that. That, of course, is a cause for concern, but in any case he would have come to rest. Of course, the fact that he does not get to the football trainings immediately, according to him, does not get the match under before the competition. We do not take any risk. We will take him with him when he is usable. ”
“Teemu has been important to the team. Let’s see what our physiotherapists achieve. We are optimistic about that. Time will tell if he is okay in the opening match against Denmark. ”
You have been preparing for the Games for a year and a half. What has happened to you and the team during that time?
“We’ve played eleven games, which has helped prepare for the Games. The pandemic period brought a lot of uncertainties. Fortunately, the series kicked off. It was good for me to reflect on what has happened and seek feedback on our actions and create guidelines for the future. New friends have joined the player group. I have not been able to make follow-up visits. It seems that for some players, it would have been important to get to discuss with the club coaches about the player’s status, the player’s role and areas for development. I’ve been on the phone, but it’s not the same thing. ”
Is the team better now than in June last year?
“Difficult question. At least it’s not worse. ”
You’ve been able to play teams in multiple games with the system you’re likely to play in tournaments.
“We have options. The 5-3-2 grouping has been able to drive in. There are other options at the bottom. Within the game it is possible to change the grouping. The players are 4-4-2 in the backbone, but of course it’s good to repeat that in practice. We need to have a certain kind of grouping bank so that we can react within or between games. ”
“I’ve watched our March games a lot. I rewind individual situations back and forth to see how individuals move in different situations. There are good automations to be seen if you think of moving as a group. The group moves very compactly. Then there’s the biggest thing about how to address problem areas when an opponent creates superiority or tries to lure our players out of shape, how at that point the two-player collaboration works. We have managed to solve things, but optimal situation-playing is still a priority as we prepare for the Games. ”
“In terms of learning, understanding and engagement, it would be best for the players to get suggestions, giving me the feeling that the players are on the map. Instead of directly bringing that solution to the players. ”
In the March matches, it seemed that the pair’s rebound came only because of a momentary slack and lack of reaction.
“The right hit analysis. In the goal scored by Ukraine, there was something to be corrected in the actions of many players. It’s exactly what a grouping is, but players have to anticipate what’s going to happen. ”
What has become clear during the year about how Finland could get points in the European Championship tournament from its opponents in the first round?
“In the European Championship qualifiers and the League of Nations, we have won by keeping our own heads clean. It’s challenging against these teams. We need to invest in that, but of course we need to be able to attack and create places. The premise is clear, we need to focus on defensive play. We can’t overprotect the goal, but enough. ”
“We need to be brave and offer a crease to both the opponent’s defenders and the midfield. I am confident that we will be able to resolve certain one-on-one situations, even if we are facing tough players. The ideal is that we always get support from the presser. ”
What is the significance of tactical surprises and can you keep some things in the dark?
“It brings peace and security to the team when it knows how we’re going into the game. If you try to fool your opponent somehow, I think it will more confuse your own doing. Surprises can be in player selections or player roles at different stages of the game. I don’t think any team is going to hide their own play.
How do you see the upcoming race contract where you are together from the end of May until Midsummer?
“This is an exceptional situation. The planning of the ensemble has been an important part and how everyone is prepared to be fit at the start of the Games. Exercise programs need to be identified and look at what everyone needs during the event. It is also important to rhythmize everything so that it is as close as possible to what the player is used to in their daily lives. There must also be holidays. It’s a long bang in our own bubble. It is mentally heavy. The important thing is that we have enough time to go through things on the field and in meetings. ”
What would be a realistic achievement for the Owls in the European Championships and what is your dream achievement?
“The dream is to move on from the first block. None of our three opponents think they would lose a single point to Finland. There are grounds for that if you look at Fifa’s investments. ”
“What is realistic? I don’t speculate on scores. I think we have a chance to score points or not even win against every opponent. ”
“When everything hits, everything is possible. We have shown it over the years. It may not be likely, but it is possible. ”
“I hope I tear up after the first match because we have won.”
Subscribe to the European Championships newsletter at hs.fi/sports
Read all HS European Championship stories from hs.fi/emkisat