Not much reason for the Finns to be cheerful and gay after being drawn into qualification Group 4, as they would be up against some of the power houses of world football.
Manager Jukka Vakkila, 38 years of age by the start of the qualification, had taken over from Martti Kuusela, whose last task had been seeing to Finland finishing their qualification campaign for the 1988 European Championships. Vakkila had until then been in charge of the Finnish Olympic team, who had finished bottom of their qualification group for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He was a well educated coach, having taken his badges at the famous Sporthochschule in Köln. Assistant to Vakkila was Antti Muurinen.
Vakkila possessed a side with a good few number of players plying their trade abroad, which was a growing trend in Finnish football at the time. Goalkeeper Laukkanen and forward Hjelm had recently been transferred to 1. Bundesliga (both Stuttgarter Kickers), and other notable examples such as Paatelainen for Dundee U., Rantanen for Leicester C., and Ukkonen for Anderlecht. A major miss would however be Petri Tiainen (Ajax), the most gifted player of the squad, who was struggling to return after a long-term injury.
Finland had given a good account of themselves in their last World Cup qualification, the one ahead of Mexico ’86, when they had finished just two points short of Northern Ireland’s second spot. They had drawn at home against both England and Romania, and even won against the Ulstermen, but unfortunately they had been weak away from home.
In light of that, the most recent European Championship qualification would have been a disappointment, though they had put in a remarkable final performance in beating Czechoslovakia 3-0, a scoreline which would eventually aid their Nordic counterparts Denmark to win the group. The 1-0 reverse in Helsinki against the Danes had been the Finns’ only home defeat in seven qualifiers, suggesting that they would be difficult to beat at home.
Friendly: Finland 1-1 Bulgaria
04.08.1988, Kentää (Vaasa)
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Hännikäinen, Europaeus, Lahtinen (c), Petäjä – Myyry, Holmgren (Lipponen 90), Törnvall, Alatensiö (Lius h-t) – Hjelm, Paatelainen (Rantanen 69)
Finns fight back from a goal down in dour conditions on a difficult pitch.
Friendly: Finland 0-0 Soviet Union
17.08.1988, Kupittaan jalkapallostadion (Turku)
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Hännikäinen, Europaeus, Lahtinen, Petäjä – Myyry, Pekonen (c), Alatensiö (Aaltonen 67), Holmgren (Kanerva 86) – Rantanen (Nikkilä 63), Lius (Paatelainen h-t)
Finland will have been delighted to be a match for the USSR, putting up a sturdy fight to keep a clean sheet.
Qualifier 1: Finland 0-4 West Germany
31.08.1988, Olympiastadion (Helsinki)
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Hännikäinen (Lipponen 44), Lahtinen, Europaeus, Petäjä – Myyry, Pekonen (c), Ukkonen (Alatensiö 63), Hjelm – Rantanen, Paatelainen.
Attacking-looking line-up by Vakkila, and they are completely ran over. The match is over within 15 minutes. As one could fear, they looked very slow in comparison to the swift Germans. The long-ball tactics was a failure, as nobody was there to pick up the knock-downs. In particular Ukkonen was disappointing, and it would in hindsight have been better to field the in-form Alatensiö.
Qualifier 2: Wales 2-2 Finland
19.10.1988, Vetch Field (Swansea)
Goals: Ukkonen, Paatelainen
Line-up (4-4-2): Huttunen – Pekonen (c), Lahtinen, Europaeus, Kanerva – Myyry (Lipponen 86), Holmgren, Ukkonen, Petäjä (Rantanen 60) – Paatelainen, Hjelm
A strong point by a much improved Finland, where midfield enforcer Holmgren made sure to lift the quality in the centre of the pitch since last time around. Some fine individual performances from the centre-backs and Paatelainen as well, and the point was well deserved as Finland even saw Huttunen save Saunders’ second half penalty.
Friendly: Kuwait 0-0 Finland
Line-up: Huttunen – Pekonen (c), Europaeus, Mäkelä, Kanerva – Karvinen (Valla 68), Rissanen, Alatensiö, Tarkkio (Huhtamäki 82) – Vuorela (Tegelberg 60), Lius
Friendly: Kuwait 0-0 Finland
Line-up: Poutiainen – Pekonen (c), Europaeus, Mäkelä, Kanerva – Ylä-Jussila (Tarkkio h-t), Rissanen, Alatensiö (Valla 60), Huhtamäki (Karvinen 70) – Tegelberg (Vuorela 75), Lius
Friendly: Egypt 2-1 Finland
Line-up: Laukkanen – Pekonen (c) (Myyry h-t), Mäkelä, Heikkinen, Kanerva – Petäjä, Ukkonen, Alatensiö (Tarkkio 70), Hjelm – Paatelainen, Lius (Rantanen 80)
Friendly: Egypt 2-1 Finland
Line-up: Eckerman (Huttunen h-t) – Petäjä (Heikkinen 60), Europaeus (c), Mäkelä, Kanerva – Myyry, Roth, Alatensiö (Ukkonen h-t), Tarkkio – Rantanen (Tegelberg 75), Lius
Friendly: Algeria 2-0 Finland
Line-up: Eckerman – Hännikäinen, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Kanerva (Paavola h-t) – Myyry (Roth 60), Holmgren, Ukkonen, Petäjä – Tarkkio, Lius (Alatensiö 79)
The first of three matches in the Malta International Tournament.
Friendly: : Denmark 0-0 Finland
Line-up: Laukkanen – Petäjä, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Kanerva – Roth (Tarkkio 72), Holmgren, Ukkonen, Alatensiö (Hännikäinen 86) – Paavola (Huhtamäki 90), Lius
Friendly: Malta 0-0 Finland
Line-up: Eckerman – Hännikäinen, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Kanerva – Holmgren, Aaltonen, Ukkonen, Huhtamäki (Paavola 59) – Tarkkio (Myyry 67), Lius
Friendly: East Germany 1-1 Finland
Line-up: Laukkanen – Pekonen, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Kanerva – Myyry (Aaltonen 72), Holmgren (Roth 89), Ukkonen, Paavola (Petäjä 80) – Lipponen, Hjelm (Tegelberg 88).
Qualifier 3: Finland 0-1 Netherlands
31.05.1989, Olympiastadion (Helsinki)
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Kanerva, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Holmgren – Myyry, Ikäläinen, Ukkonen (Törnvall 68′), Hjelm (Petäjä 83′) – Lipponen, Paatelainen.
Subs: Huttunen, Lius, Lahtinen.
Finland try to hang on to a draw, but lose in the final minutes. With Lahtinen out of the team, there’s less focus on long balls, but the attempts to use the speed of Lipponen is a failure. Finland struggle to cross the midway line at times, and playmaker Ukkonen still need too much time on the ball. Decents impressions by new centre-half Heikkinen and the returned Ikäläinen.
Friendly: Finland 2-2 Yugoslavia
23.08.1989, Väinölänniemen Stadion (Kuopio)
Goals: Tarkkio, Ukkonen
Line-up: Huttunen – Holmgren, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Lahtinen – Myyry, Ikäläinen, Törnvall, Ukkonen – Lipponen (Lius 84), Tarkkio (Järvinen 84)
Qualifier 4: Finland 1-0 Wales
06.09.1989, Olympiastadion (Helsinki)
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Holmgren, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Lahtinen – Myyry, Ikäläinen, Ukkonen (Tauriainen 83), Tarkkio – Lipponen, Paatelainen (Törnvall 65)
It is a windy afternoon in the Finnish capital as Lipponen makes sure of a home win through his headed goal from the impressive Ukkonen’s corner early after the restart. Finland play with great zest and are uncompromising throughout, unsettling and frustrating their opponents. Tarkkio makes impressive first appearance of the qualifiers.
Qualifier 5: West Germany 6-1 Finland
04.10.1989, Westfalenstadion (Dortmund)
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Holmgren, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Lahtinen – Myyry, Ikäläinen (Hjelm 71), Ukkonen, Tarkkio – Lipponen, Paatelainen (Lius 63)
Decent first half where the Finns kept their shape, and Ukkonen scored from a direct free-kick midway through the half, only to have it ruled out for offside against a team mate. When the hosts scored their second goal just after the restart, the Finns simply had no answer to the pace with which West Germany attacked. They owed to Laukkanen to keep the score down, and there was a huge gulf in class between the two sides.
Friendly: Trinidad & Tobago 0-1 Finland
Line-up: Huttunen – Petäjä, Heikkinen, Vuorela, Kanerva – Rinne (Roth 63), Saastamoinen, Alatensiö, Paavola (Litmanen 79) – Lius, Valvee (Turunen 55)
Friendly: Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 Finland
Line-up: Eckerman – Petäjä, Heikkinen, Vuorela, Kanerva – Roth, Saastamoinen (Paavola 53), Alatensiö (Rinne 73), Litmanen – Lius, Turunen (Valvee 53)
Qualifier 6: Netherlands 3-0 Finland
Line-up (4-4-2): Laukkanen – Holmgren, Europaeus (c), Heikkinen, Kanerva – Myyry, Ikäläinen, Tarkkio (Petäjä 76), Ukkonen (Tauriainen 57) – Paatelainen, Lipponen
The Finns came into the game with little to lose, but were rarely experimental other than switching positions for Ukkonen and Tarkkio, and they were also very reluctant in moving forward, trying to protect what they had from the outset. There were some hairy first half moments, especially as Kanerva struggled to keep control on van’t Schip. Laukkanen made some fine stops. In the second half, once the first goal went in, there was never a way back for Finland. They did manage to avoid finishing bottom of the group, though, which must be seen as something of a success.
Final position: 3 (out of 4)
Total record: 6 1 1 4 4-16 3
Home record: 3 1 0 2 1-5 2
Away record: 3 0 1 2 3-11 1
Number of players used: 22
Number of players including unused substitutes: 24
Ever-presents (540 mins): 1 (Europaeus)
Leading goalscorer: Mika Lipponen (2)
Yellow/red cards: 8/0
– game by game
|Name||Frg (h)||Wal (a)||Hol (h)||Wal (h)||Frg (a)||Hol (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average rating||Number of rated games|
12.02.1990 United Arab Emirates 1-1 Finland
Line-up: Huttunen – Vuorela, Europaeus, OllilaVuorela, Holmgren – Huhtamäki (Grönholm 63), Saastamoinen, Tiainen (Mäkelä 83), Tauriainen – Aaltonen, Turunen (Rinne 75)
15.02.1990 Kuwait 0-1 Finland (Cairo, Egypt)
Line-up: Jakonen – Vuorela, Europaeus, Ollila (Tauriainen h-t) (Turunen 77), Holmgren – Aaltonen (Huhtamäki 86), Saastamoinen (Rinne 12), Tiainen (Grönholm 64), Mäkelä – Lipponen, Hjelm
10.03.1990 United States 2-1 Finland
Line-up: Jakonen – Vuorela (Grönholm 89), Europaeus (c), Ollila (Huhtamäki h-t), Heikkinen – Holmgren, Saastamoinen, Litmanen, Tauriainen (Turunen 75) – Lius, Tarkkio
16.05.1990 Republic of Ireland 1-1 Finland
Line-up: Huttunen (c) – Vuorela, Sulonen, Heikkinen, Kanerva – Myyry (Aaltonen 59), Jäntti (Turunen 87), Järvinen, P Tauriainen – Litmanen (V Tauriainen 71), Paatelainen
27.05.1990 Sweden 6-0 Finland
Line-up: Laukkanen – Holmgren, Vuorela (Myyry h-t) (Litmanen 65), Heikkinen, Petäjä – Tarkkio, Roth (Paavola 58), Jäntti (Kanerva 34), P Tauriainen – Hjelm, Paatelainen