Finland may have been the surprise package of the European qualifiers, but they are not newcomers to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. This tournament was, in fact, the first FIFA women’s showpiece for which the country qualified, back in 2006, although the finals in Russia proved to be something of a disappointment. The Finns’ record on that occasion – three straight defeats, 12 goals conceded and just one scored – is one they will be desperate to improve on at Canada 2014.
For Finland, qualifying for the eight-team European U-19 Women’s Championship was seen as success in itself. Few gave them any chance in the tournament itself, particularly after the draw pitted them against Germany, Norway and Sweden, all traditional giants of the female game. The Finns, though, defied expectations with a series of stunning performances in the group phase, drawing 1-1 against Sweden, beating Norway 1-0 and progressing to the semi-finals at the expense of their Nordic neighbours with a hard-earned point against the Germans. And while England proved too strong in the last four, anyone underestimating this Finnish team in Canada could well be in for a rude awakening.
With spirit, resilience and an excellent goalkeeper in Vera Varis, the foundations for Finland’s success have left coach Marianne Miettinen hopeful of representing the country with distinction at Canada 2014. “My players are really good at taking on advice and finding ways to play against different opponents,” she said. “I couldn't be more proud of them. [Qualifying for a World Cup] fantastic for all of girls' and women's football in Finland, not just for this team.”