Despite an emerging reputation, Finland have yet to secure a spot in the finals of a FIFA World Cup™. In qualifying for the France 1998, the Nordic side narrowly missed out on a place in the play-offs, finishing their qualifying group campaign a point behind Hungary in third place.
In 2002, the Finns found themselves in a tough group. Even though they racked up two draws against the eventual FIFA World Cup™ runners-up Germany, they finished third in their group behind England and Germany.
The lack of success is all the more puzzling given the high-calibre stars available to the Scandinavians both in the past and the present, including the likes of Jari Litmanen, Sami Hyypia, Mikael Forssell, Joonas Kolkka and Petri Pasanen. The Finns are certainly a side always capable of springing a surprise.
The Finns finished fourth in their Germany 2006 qualifying group. Then coach Jyrki Heliskoski blooded a clutch of talented youngsters in the campaign, but the plan backfired and Finland surrendered all the points on offer in their matches against group favourites Netherlands, Czech Republic and Romania. The Finns are only too well aware they will have to raise their game significantly to have a chance of booking a spot at South Africa 2010, but their new coach Stuart Baxter from England is experienced enough to be able to bring his team to a higher level.