Finland vs Belgium
Kick-off time: 19:00 (UTC+3)
Venue: Veritas Stadion, Turku, Finland
Capacity: 9 372
Odds: Finland 2.50, Draw 3.20, Belgium 2.95
Finland take on Belgium in their final friendly match before the European Championship qualifying stage begins in September. The match is taking place in Turku, in the south-west of Finland, away from the national team’s usual home stadium in Helsinki. The football association of Finland have continued their habit of taking friendly matches to other parts of the country, to play in front of a different crowd. Disappointingly, though, the match is not due to be broadcast on Finnish television. The national team’s friendly matches attract such poor television ratings that it isn’t worth any broadcaster purchasing the rights to show the game. As Egan Richardson of the Nordic Football blog wrote a couple of months ago, “the [Finnish] media tends to rank football somewhere between tractor-pulling and volleyball in the list of broadcasting priorities”. I have no idea if the match is being shown in Belgium, but I expect it is.
Finland have played Belgium eight times in their history. They have won three of those matches, drawn two, and lost the remaining three. In total, they have scored sixteen goals and conceded eighteen. The last time the two teams met was in October 2007, in Brussels, for a European Championship qualifying match which finished 0-0.
All clubs are from Finland unless otherwise stated.
Goalkeepers: Otto Fredrikson (Spartak Nalchik, Russia), Janne Korhonen (Jyväskylä), Jukka Lehtovaara (Turun Palloseura).
Defenders: Markus Heikkinen (Rapid Wien, Austria), Veli Lampi (Willem II, Netherlands), Niklas Moisander (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Petri Pasanen (Werder Bremen, Germany), Joona Toivio (Djurgårdens, Sweden).
Midfielders: Roman Eremenko (Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine), Alexei Eremenko Jr (Jaro), Juha Hakola (Willem II, Netherlands), Kasper Hämäläinen (Djurgårdens, Sweden), Joonas Kolkka (NAC, Netherlands), Jari Litmanen (Lahti), Tim Sparv (Groningen, Netherlands), Teemu Tainio (Sunderland, England), Mika Väyrynen (Heerenveen, Netherlands).
Strikers: Mikael Forssell (Hannover 96, Germany), Jonatan Johansson (Turun Palloseura), Roni Porokara (Örebro, Sweden), Paulus Roiha (Åtvidabergs, Sweden), Daniel Sjölund (Djurgårdens, Sweden).
All clubs are from Belgium unless otherwise stated.
Goalkeepers: Logan Bailly (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Germany), Jean-Francois Gillet (Bari, Italy), Silvio Proto (Anderlecht).
Defenders: Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Olivier Deschacht (Anderlecht), Guillaume Gillet (Anderlecht), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City, England), Sebastien Pocognoli (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg, Russia), Jelle Van Damme (Wolverhampton, England), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal, England).
Midfielders: Thomas Buffel (RC Genk), Kevin De Bruyne (RC Genk), Steven Defour (Standard Liege), Eden Hazard (Lille, France), Jonathan Legear (Anderlecht), Christophe Lepoint (Gent), Bernd Thijs (Gent), Jan Vertonghen (Ajax, Netherlands), Axel Witsel (Standard Liege).
Strikers: Romelu Lukaku (Anderlecht), Kevin Mirallas (Olympiakos, Greece), Benteke (Standard Liege).
Finland may be the favourites according to the bookmakers, but that must only be due to their home advantage as their squad is considerably weaker than that of Belgium. In the absence of Sami Hyypiä, Finland will be light at the back against exciting talents like Eden Hazard and Steven Defour, who have both been linked with moves to some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Belgium’s defence looks strong, too, with Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany both plying their trade in the English Premier League. On paper, it will be tough for Finland to get anything from the match, but it is difficult to predict which players will be selected for any international friendly and therefore how strong the teams will be. I hope Finland use the match to take a look at their younger players, such as Tim Sparv, who will become increasingly important for them as the Euro qualifiers stretch on, and in the long-term future. It is a bit clichéd to say “the result is more important than the performance”, especially before a match, but I believe it’s true in this case.
Finland 1-2 Belgium.