Finland v Russia: Resilient Finns can hold hosts in St Petersburg

Dave Tindall previews Wednesday afternoon's match in Group B and says Finland look capable of banking a draw against Russia...

Finland hope to build on opening win

It's hard to imagine the cocktail of emotions going on in the Finnish camp when the full-time whistle blew in their Group B opener against Denmark.

In their first ever match at a major finals, Joel Pohjanpalo's second-half header had given them a 1-0 victory.

With four of the six third-placed teams going through, anyone managing a win has one foot in the knockout stage. Finland were supposed to finish bottom of Group B and yet second place is now a realistic proposition.

And yet their victory came in shocking circumstances after Denmark's Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed shortly before half-time.

Following a request by both teams, UEFA agreed to restart the match later in the evening after news came through that Eriksen was in a stable condition in hospital.

While discussions took place, Finland's fans joined in a with a call and response shout of "Christian" "Eriksen" with the Danish supporters: a genuinely uplifting moment.

Back on the pitch and, almost unnoticed, Pohjanpalo's header and Lukas Hradecky's penalty save from Pierre-Emile Højbjerg shortly after meant a surreal and distressing evening ending with Finland win.

Skipper Tim Sparv reflected: "It was very difficult for everyone on Saturday and it showed in the dressing room also. Normally we would have really celebrated, but it was very quiet and understandably so."

Russia on the back foot after error-strewn opening defeat

It's difficult to know what impact the serious incident involving Eriksen had on the players of Russia and Belgium when they lined up later that night.

The Belgian squad had been watching that game on television before their pre-match meeting and when Eriksen's Inter teammate Romelu Lukaku seized on a Russian error to fire Belgium in front early on, the striker sprinted to the touchline camera and shouted: "Chris, Chris, sterkte jongen [stay strong, boy], I love you."

Thomas Meunier made it 2-0 in the 34th-minute after a goalkeeping error and Lukaku scored on the break late on to condemn Russia to a morale-sapping 3-0 defeat.

Russia had started the 2018 World Cup on home soil with a 5-0 win and they built on that fast start to emerge as surprise quarter-finalists. But now they have their backs to the wall after barely laying a glove on the Belgians on Saturday night.

At least coach Stanislav Cherchesov wasn't sugarcoating anything. "The result seems fair," he said. "It could have been closer but for some silly mistakes from us. We've played them four times [recently] now and not beaten them."

Once more they'll have home advantage with this one taking place in St Petersburg. But if things start to go wrong again, having disgruntled home fans will be more hindrance than help.

And it's also worth remembering that their final game against Denmark takes place in Copenhagen so they really do have to try and cash in here.

Russia look worth opposing

Given their home advantage, Russia are the clear favourites at just 1.70 to bounce back with a win while Finland are a hefty-looking 6.2 to make it two wins out of two.

The Draw is 3.9 and that's where the value appears to lie.

It almost seemed feted for Denmark to lose on Saturday and Finland scored with their very first effort on goal. It came after 60 minutes and they didn't have another. Denmark had 23 and six on target.

And yet, despite those stats painting a certain picture, it's pretty obvious what a together and resilient bunch the Finns are. They tackle, they block, they clear and generally make life difficult.

Russia may find it very difficult to break them down and that draw price just looks too big in what could be a very tight contest.

BTTS not without hope

'Yes' is a clear underdog at 2.34 in the Both Teams to Score market and, on first glance, that's no surprise. Finland hardly created anything against Denmark and Russia fired blanks against Belgium.

But Finland have now scored in their last 10 matches across qualifying and the finals itself so they do manage to find a way even when chances are sparse.

Russia have to go for it a bit in this one and that could leave them exposed on the counter-attack. I won't go over the top about BTTS but it's worth pointing out that 'No' at 1.71 is far from a good thing.

That said, if we do arrive at a drawn game, then 0-0 and 1-1 must be the most likely candidates.

As with BTTS, that's reflected in the 2.5 quotes which are lopsided - Overs at 2.42 and Unders 1.67.

Russia's errors against Belgium would give encouragement for Overs backers, as would Finland's March friendly against Switzerland which ended 3-2 to the Swiss.

Pohjanpalo is Pukki alternative

While Teemu Pukki dominated Finland's scoring in qualifying with 10 goals, Saturday's matchwinner Pohjanpalo was definitely the next cab off the rank when trying to predict who else might net for the Finns.

The 26-year-old bagged a hat-trick for Union Berlin in their final home game of the recently-completed Bundesliga campaign and, as well as Saturday's winner, he scored twice in that 3-2 defeat to the Swiss.

You'll find him at 7/2 (Sportsbook) to net anytime while it's just over 15.0 on the Bet Builder that Pohjanpalo scores in a draw.

For Russia, their main goal threat, Artem Dzyuba, is just 11/10 to score anytime. That makes little appeal given that he's not scored in four games for his country.

Opta stat

Last time out, Joel Pohjanpalo scored his 10th goal for Finland, in what was his 43rd cap for his country - becoming one of only two players in Finland's Euro 2020 squad to have netted 10+ goals for the national side (also Teemu Pukki, 30). In fact, Pohjanpalo has netted three goals in his last three appearances for Finland.

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