Markku Kanerva after the losing game against Sweden: “I did expect a bit more from us”

Markku Kanerva after the losing game against Sweden I did

The Finnish men’s national football team will have to wait for their possibly first win of the season until Thursday, when the Huuhkajat face Estonia during their winter camp vacation in Albufeira in Portugal.

Huuhkajat lost late on Monday in their first national match of the year in the Algarve to Sweden 0–2. Sweden, which dominated the match and especially the midfield, scored goals at the end of the opening half Christopher Nyman and in extra time of the match Joel Asoro.

Both teams bravely experimented with players. Sweden’s starting line-up included no fewer than eight A national team debutants, Finland also had five: goalkeeperi Lucas BergströmFullback Tomas Galvezmidfielder Santeri Väänänen as well as forwards at the top Agon Sadiku and Kai Meriluoto. After four substitutions in the second half, a total of seven A national team first-timers debuted in Huuhkaj.

– It would be unfair to punish debutants against each other. I looked more at the whole. They had the attitude, they put their best into the game, Finland’s head coach Markku Kanerva told.

A difficult starting point

Sweden also beat Finland in the two countries’ previous international match at the end of May 2021, even then with 2–0 goals. From that match, Finland’s starting line-up on Monday in the Algarve was only Robert Ivanov and Try Soiri.

Since the match calendar of club teams in different parts of Europe is as tight as a violin string after the six-week World Cup break in November-December, even the best players in Finland cannot make it to the matches in Sweden and Estonia.

Huuhkaj has a winter camp abroad after a four-year break. Head coach Kanerva understands that Huuhkajie’s young team has room for growth when playing together.

– The timing of these matches must be taken into account. The players have come here from pretty much different starting points. One goal is to see players in these circles, Kanerva said.

He gave praise to Sweden.

– Sweden defended the spaces very closely in the midfield. It was a bit better than us. I did expect a little more from us. Especially the attacking game left much to be desired.

“Estonia is a physical team”

In their opening match in Portugal, Estonia drew 1–1 against Iceland.

– There will be a challenging opponent, Estonia is a physical team. It is difficult to score goals against that, Kanerva listed.

One of the Huhkajie’s Monday game debutants, Santeri Väänänen believes that the game will improve against Estonia.

– We have to defend against Estonia more closely. Sweden found spaces to attack quite well against us, Väänänen said.

In Finland, there are a few players in the Portugal camp who are considering whether to play their international career in Huuhkaj or in another national team enabled by citizenship.

– The fact that they commit to playing in these games here, I consider a pretty strong signal to represent Huuhkaji in the future, head coach Kanerva decided.