Huuhkajat arrive in Wales for crucial decider without key players

A win in Cardiff would send the Finnish team to the top of their group, and get promotion to the next tier of European football.

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Finland captain Tim Sparv gets a yellow card for fouling Bulgarian player Yankov, 15th November 2020 / Credit: UEFA

The Finnish men’s national football team arrived in Wales on Monday ahead of a crunch match, without their captain at the helm, or two other key players.

Tim Sparv is out through suspension after getting a yellow card in Sofia on Sunday night for fouling a Bulgarian player in the penalty box; while Joel Pohjanpalo will miss the game with an injured ankle which needs surgery, and Juha Pirinen wasn’t match fit to travel with the rest of the team and so has returned to his club in Slovakia instead.

Finland is currently in second place in their UEFA Nations League group, just one point behind Wales, and the winner of Wednesday night’s game will earn automatic promotion to the higher division in the next UEFA Nations League tournament. It would also give Finland another route to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, in addition to the traditional qualifiers which start next spring.

The Finns got to edge of winning their group after a Sunday night victory on the road against Bulgaria, winning 2-1 in Sofia.

Goals came in the first half from Teemu Pukki and Robin Lod.

Despite having two penalties in the second half, the Bulgarians couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

“Bulgaria made it tough for us tonight, but that was no surprise. We defended and fought well through some difficult moments and got the reward at the end” Finnish head coach Markku Kanerva told reporters after the game.