Finns have plans for Walcott
© AFP

Tim Sparv expects Finland Under-21s to "double up" on England talent Theo Walcott to stop his former Southampton team-mate in the UEFA European Championship opener in Halmstad tomorrow. Sparv, the Finnish captain, spent two years living with Walcott when they were on the south coast and reached the final of the FA Youth Cup with him in 2005.

The midfielder, now with Swedish club Halmstad, said: "I know him very well from my Saints days, so I am going to give my team-mates some hints.

"I tried to stop him for two years at Southampton, but I never caught him and I'm not getting any quicker," he said.

"It's going to be a hard task. We're going to have to double up on him on occasions and not leave him one-against-one because he is going to outpace anyone."

We're not here for catching the sun and being tourists. We're here to win some matches and go through from the group hopefully.
Finland Under-21 captain Tim Sparv

Walcott's face has been on promotional magazines for the tournament in Sweden and the spotlight will be on the Arsenal forward when he makes his first appearance at a finals tournament after famously being taken to the 2006 FIFA World Cup German™ but not featuring. Sparv accepts Finland are massive underdogs.

"We know their individual players and watch them on TV," he said of England. "When they see our list of teams we play for they must be laughing. But one player does not make a team. We're here to make an upset.

"It's a good time to play them in the first game," he said. "It was a couple of weeks since their season finished and they have had a long season, playing a lot of games.

"This could be a key game for us and we fancy our chances. We're not here for catching the sun and being tourists," said Sparv. " We're here to win some matches and go through from the group hopefully."

Finland coach Markku Kanerva expects a tough task against England at Orjans vall.

"It has been easy to scout them - by watching Premier League games," he said. "Now England don't kick long balls and try to fight for a second ball, they play modern football. It makes our defending quite difficult."

England have Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner as well, but all eyes will be on Walcott when the finals start. Sparv paints the picture of Walcott being the perfect house-mate, although he added: "He was watching Eastenders, which I didn't like."