Finland vs Northern Ireland
Finland and Northern Ireland are set to trade tackles at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium in a 2024 Euro qualifying Group H dead-rubber.
Not long ago, stars seemed aligned so that Finland could qualify for back-to-back Euros for the first time in the nation’s history. However, three consecutive Euro qualifying defeats have demoted the ‘Eagle-owls’ to fourth in Group H, seven points adrift of runners-up Denmark, effectively ruling them out of contention for direct qualification for next summer’s tournament in Germany. Markku Kanerva’s men have lost their last two Euro qualifiers on home turf via single-goal margins, though they can draw confidence from not losing three in a row in more than four years. Some late drama could be in store this weekend as Finland’s last ten matches have produced ten goals beyond the 75th minute, though the three most recent on home turf all went against them.
In the meantime, Northern Ireland’s bid to reach only their second-ever Euros – first since 2016 – has ceased to exist long ago, with the visitors losing six of their eight outings in Group H (W2), including the last three on the road. With two of those three defeats yielding an identical 1-0 scoreline, it stands to reason the ‘Norn Iron’ won’t go down without a fight despite going winless in their last two H2Hs (D1, L1). Northern Ireland’s encounters against Finland in the 21st century have traditionally been action-packed, with four out of six seeing both teams on the scoresheet, including their last meeting on Finish soil (1-1). But since they’ve lost five of their six most recent competitive games away from home (W1), Michael O’Neill’s men may not dare to dream big.