Finns have always been great football fans. And the country has been able to produce some great players, such as Jari Litmanen, who played almost two decades ago as midfielder at FC Barcelona, Liverpool and Ajax, or more recently Teemu Pukki, currently playing as Norwich City striker in the Premier League.
However, in its 102 years of history the country of ice and snow has not been able to gather a compact group of players, capable of qualifying to compete in a first level tournament. The curse lasts since 1930, when the first World Cup was held in Uruguay, and has kept the country also outside all the UEFA Euro Cups. Something difficult to understand in a country where sport fascinates the entire population and which has one of the highest per capita rates of Olympic medals.
But things can change next summer. If the Eagle Owls (Huuhkajat, as the Finnish national team is known) are able to defeat Liechtenstein next Friday 15 November, they will qualify for the Euro 2020. Beating the little Alpine principality seems easy in principle and Finns will not be able to complain this time about being a small country against greater rivals.
"I can promise that we’ll take care of business," "For once, I dare to promise," said Teemu Pukki, the team's star.
Still, as experts say, in today's football there are no longer modest enemies and every game has to be played. Better not to sell reindeer skin before hunting.
Follow it live
The ball is scheduled to start rolling at 19:00. The match will be played in Helsinki at the Telia 5G Areena, inaugurated in 2000 and with a capacity of 10,770 spectators. Of course, tickets for the match are sold out.
The match will be broadcast live on Finnish TV (channel 4). For football fans who want to live the show intensely but have not gotten a ticket, the major cities in Finland have organized live events with giant screens. Yes, as if it were a World Cup match, and despite the cold and rain that these days shake southern Finland.
In downtown Helsinki, Finland's Football Association has organized together with Ilta-Sanomat a screening at Kansalaistori, next to the Oodi Library, the Music House (Musiikkitalo) and Sanomatalo. There will be two screens of 3x6 meters, in addition to a projection on the wall of the Musikkkitalo.
The admission to the event will be free and open to everybody, without any age limits.
In Tampere, the historical European qualification match between Finland and Liechtenstein will be shown live on big screen at the central square Keskustori.
According to Visit Tampere, screens and a stage will be set up in front of the Keskustori old church. The event will end after the game and the aftermath at about 9:30 pm.
Norwich City supports Finland
Norwich City Football Club, the team where Teemu Pukki plays, is also willing to participate in what seems like a party. And for that reason the English club has "teamed up with official club partner Best Fiends, who have offices in Helsinki, to document a potentially historic moment in Finnish football, with the club documentary set for release in mid-December".
Image published by Norwich City Football Club in support of the Finnish National Team. Credit: Norwich City Football Club.
According to the club's website, the documentary will also detail some wider activity in Finland, as Norwich City "publicly demonstrates its support for Pukki and the Finland national team, under the project title ‘We Believe in the Huuhkajat’".
Everything is ready for the team to make history. All that remains is for the Eagle Owls to win. Torilla tavataan!