Finland are still searching for the Holy Grail of a place at the FIFA World Cup™, but recent evidence would suggest they are getting closer. The South Africa 2010 preliminaries were particularly encouraging, with the Finns just missing out on a play-off spot after a campaign that witnessed them draw home and away against Germany and win half of their ten matches.
The current crop
The task of taking the Finns into uncharted territory has fallen to a former national team stalwart in Mixu Paatelainen. The team’s coach, a burly striker in his day, carved out a reputation for championing slick, free-flowing football as coach of Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock, and arrives at the Finnish helm having picked up Scotland’s Manager of the Year award.
The key players
Sadly, Paatelainen no longer has the likes of Jari Litmanen at his disposal, but nor is this current Finland side devoid of talent. In fact, it benefits from a spine of seasoned performers, from captain Petri Pasanen in defence through skilful playmaker Alexei Eremenko to long-serving centre-forward Mikkael Forssell.