Finland’s national basketball team had to fight from behind to beat Island 83-79 in Helsinki tonight.
The visiting Icelanders were cheered on by their fans, who were noticeably louder in the arena than the Finnish fans, even though they were fewer in number.
Susijengi’s – Wolfpack’s – most effective player was NBA start Lauri Markkanen, with 23 points. Sasu Salin scored 17.
Finland had already qualified for the next stage of the Eurobasket tournament by winning three of its previous games, and securing second place in the group, after Slovenia defeated France earlier in the day.
The Finns will now face Italy, who came third in their own group stage.
“I’m thinking that the team who wants to win more will also win on Saturday” says Finnish player Tuukka Kotti, predicting a tough match. “At least, we want to win” said Kotti.
The two teams have met 94 times previously in international basketball, with Finland winning 85 of those encounters.
Last time they played was in August, when Italy triumphed again. Finland’s last victory over the Italians was back in 2009 – but there are still five players from that encounter in the current Finnish squad.
“On Saturday we meet the team from the Nordic region and the young star Markkanen” wrote Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.