Huuhkajie’s hunt for a place in the European Championship continues in March. The qualifying group did not see the same cross-play this time as last time, writes Urheilu’s Jussi Vainikka.
Jussi Vainikka sports reporter
Six wins from ten games. Huuhkajat set aside their winning record in the qualifiers, but remained on the beach at this stage of the European Championships.
Four years ago, 18 points was enough to qualify directly for the competition. Now the difference between the top two Denmark and Slovenia was four points.
Yes, Slovenia. The most important game of the qualifier in October was a perfect pancake from Huuhkaj. Already in the first episode, Slovenia fell over Finland. A loss in the next game to Kazakhstan completed the pitch-black October match window.
If Kazakhstan had fallen, Finnish supporters would have had something to worry about on Monday night. Now the San Marino match was just played out. Jossing is pointless, but without a doubt, on many home sofas, jossing certainly happened.
Denmark won Finland’s qualifying group. The second place in the group was decided between Slovenia and Kazakhstan in Ljubljana. Hardly anyone could have expected that before the qualification. Kazakhstan’s mega surprise did not happen. With a 2–1 win, Slovenia grabbed its first place in the prestigious competition since 2010.
In the previous European Championship qualifiers, the Huuhkajat had appropriate help from others. Both Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina dropped surprising points along the way, and Finland’s away losses didn’t hurt either. Italy went from victory to victory.
In the now ended qualification, both Kazakhstan and Slovenia were able to pinch points from the number one favorite Denmark, unlike Finland. Northern Ireland underperformed badly and got no points until the last round unlike San Marino.
The EC qualification has been a rollercoaster of emotions for Huuhkaji. As a counterweight to October’s disappointments, June’s sold-out matches and the wins from them created a great football boom for the Olympic Stadium.
That’s why you can also have a well-deserved pop at the Balloliitto office. The audience average for the five qualifying home matches rose to a handsome 31,406. The stadium’s occupancy rate was a whopping 97 percent, which is reached in only a few European countries. Without the Slovenia loss, every home match would have been sold out for sure – even now we came close.
And maybe we will return to the Olympic Stadium in March. It is extremely difficult to pass the further qualification, but depending on the luck of the draw it is possible for Huuhkaji.
Thursday’s draw has a huge meaning. From the trio of Finland, Iceland and Ukraine, one will be drawn for the A path. In the worst case, Finland will have to go on the A path, where they should be able to beat Wales or Croatia and Poland during one qualifying window.
On the other hand, on the B path, the route to the Games would go through the more familiar Zenica, where the home team Bosnia-Herzegovina has been rocking in the EC qualifiers. Among other things, Luxembourg has beaten Bosnia twice with 6-1 aggregate goals!
In a possible B-path qualifying final, the opponent would be either Ukraine, Israel or Iceland. Finland could even get there as a favorite if the match is drawn at the Olympic Stadium.
The European Championship qualification ended, but the last wagons of Germany’s race train are still moving. In March, the last countries will be dropped from the ride. The task of the whiners is simple. You must stay on the moving train until the terminus.
Finland won on Monday 20.11. 2–1 away from San Marino
0–1 Pyry Soiri 50.
0–2 Soiri 58.
1–2 Filippo Berardi rp. 90+7.
Northern Ireland–Finland 0–1
Finland–San Marino 6–0
Finland–Northern Ireland 4–0
San Marino–Finland 1–2