MOLDOVA vs FINLAND
Kick-off time: 19:30 (UTC+3)
Type: UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying round match
Venue: Zimbru Stadium, Chisinau, Moldova
Capacity: 10 500
Odds: Moldova 3.70, Draw 3.40, Finland 2.12
Finland kick off their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a match against Moldova, ranked 89th in the world. The match takes place in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Information on the Moldova football team is very hard to come by – even their football federation’s website was down today – but I can tell you that they first started playing football as an independent nation in 1994, and that they, like Finland, have never qualified for either a European Championships or a World Cup. They finished bottom of their qualifying group while trying to reach the 2010 World Cup, below even Luxembourg, after failing to win a single game.
After much wrangling, YLE have finally announced that they are going to be broadcasting the match live on television after all, which is fantastic news. You can watch it on channel TV2, starting at 19:20 (ten minutes before kick-off). This means that the state broadcaster is now scheduled to show every match of Finland’s campaign bar two, which are listed as “negotiations ongoing” on their website.
Finland have played Moldova twice in their history. They have won one of those matches and drawn the other. In total, they have scored three goals and conceded two against Moldova. The last time the two teams met was in June 1999, in Chisinau, for a European Championship qualifying match which finished 0-0.
Peter Enckelman withdrew due to injury and was replaced by Anssi Jaakkola.
Juha Hakola withdrew due to injury and was not replaced.
Names and positions as per UEFA.
Alexandru Epureanu C
Sami Hyypiä C
Alexei Eremenko Jr
In lieu of any better information – I’ve never seen any of the Moldovan players in action – I’ve plumped for their captain, Alexandru Epureanu. He is one of the more experienced players of the side, with 30 caps to his name. He currently plays for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Premier League, meaning he faces a far higher calibre of opponent than most of his team-mates. He can play in midfield, but as Moldova are missing three of their regular defenders for this match, he’ll almost certainly be at the heart of the defence.
To put it simply, Finland have to win this match if they have any ambitions of qualifying for the European Championships in 2012. Moldova are a very weak team, and aside from their home crowd, they should not have any weapons to really threaten Finland with. That’s not to say that Finland will be taking the match lightly; I expect Stuart Baxter to name a full-strength side, including the returning Sami Hyypiä. The main area of uncertainty in Finland’s starting XI is likely to be up front. With Mikael Forssell not having scored for the national team in fourteen months, and currently not getting any playing time at his club Hannover 96, Baxter has said that there is no number one attacker in the squad at the moment. Shefki Kuqi has been brought into the squad to provide another option, but I still think Forssell will start. Expect to see Kuqi make an appearance late in the game, though, particularly if Finland need a goal.
It is often said that there are “no easy matches” at international level, but Finland should win this match relatively comfortably. Moldova 0-2 Finland.