Few matches at Russia 2006 will fit the 'David v Goliath' tag as perfectly as Group B's opening fixture.

Finland  versus  China ; tournament newcomers against 2004 finalists; a nation of five million people facing a country of 1.3 billion. Whatever way you look at it, on paper, the game should really prove a mismatch.

It is not by accident, however, that Jarmo Matikainen's side have carved out a reputation for upsetting bigger and more established footballing nations, and though they are well aware that they start as massive underdogs against the  Thailand '04  runners-up, Finland's relaxed young women remain hopeful of slaying the Chinese giant.

That was abundantly clear when FIFA.com caught up with two of the Finns' key players, captain Maija Saari and star striker Linda Sallstrom, both of whom were firmly of the opinion that their first ever match at a FIFA Women's World Championship is one they can approach unburdened by fear or expectation.  

"The pressure's on China, not us," insisted Saari. "They are one of the big powers in women's football, whereas we're the underdogs; a little country no-one expects to do anything.

"To be honest, a draw would be quite a good result for us, but the most important thing is to put in a good performance and establish some self-confidence for the rest of our group matches."

In truth, Finland's record against the Steel Rosebuds does not bode well, with nine friendly meetings having yielded eight defeats and just a single draw. Nevertheless, Sallstrom - Matikainen's main goal threat with 21 goals to her name already at this level - shares her captain's opinion that China won't find it easy to extend this unbeaten sequence.

"We played against them two years ago and lost 5-0, so I suppose that's not the best indication for us," the 18-year-old acknowledged with a smile. "But we'll make it more difficult for them this time, I'm sure of that.

"As a team, China are very good, very quick, although physically I don't think they're as strong as the likes of Canada." 

'We've come here to qualify'
The scale of the task facing the debutantes may be immense, with group rivals Nigeria, Canada and China all veritable veterans of this competition, but coming to Moscow merely to enjoy the experience and make up the numbers could not be any further from their thinking.

"We've come here to qualify," Sallstrom insisted, "Why not?"

"Definitely," agreed Saari. "It wouldn't be the end of the world if we lose to China and go home after the group stage, but we want to come here and show that we're a good team.

"Plus, I think we come into this tournament knowing what to expect. We've had a lot of good experience playing against the toughest teams in Europe and that should make it easier for us to do well here in Russia. We've also played Canada and the USA in friendly matches and done quite well, so that has to give us confidence. I think these teams suit our style and, although we're coming here as underdogs, maybe we can surprise a few people."

Saari, who at 20 can be considered one of the team's 'elder stateswomen', is renowned for being dependability personified at the heart of a Finnish defence that is likely to find itself under heavy bombardment in Russia. Yet, while she and Sallstrom may justifiably be considered players to watch, the skipper reckons that it is precisely because Finland are a team without stars that makes them such a formidable force.

Asked to pinpoint the team's single greatest asset, she replied without hesitation: "Our team spirit, definitely. There are no stars in this team - everyone fights for each other and plays their part within the team.

"The coach is great too. He's at his best before games, building up the spirit in the dressing room, and he's been a big part in creating such a good atmosphere in the squad."

Nodding in agreement, Sallstrom also made a point of stressing that, regardless of whether they win, lose or draw against China tomorrow, she and her team-mates intend savouring every moment of a tournament they have been eagerly looking forward to for over a year.

"It's perfect so far," she enthused. "We have everything we could want here in the hotel, the food is good and the weather is also nice, so we have a lot to be thankful for.

"At the moment, we haven't seen much of Moscow - we took a short walk out last night, that's it - but it's just great to be here. We have all been desperate for this competition to arrive for a long time and, now that we're finally here, we're going to make the most of it."