A World Cup Dream Travels Through Gloomy Itä-Hakkila
“Being on a football pitch, working in practise, fresh air, slight rain. Tonight in #Itähakkila was about the best things in my job” …
…tweeted assistant coach Marianne Miettinen (right)…
…after an open training session before Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan.
Despite a good fight at the end of last group stage game, this year’s European Championships ended in a disappointment for the injury-ridden team that earlier had played in the semi- and quarterfinals.
In order to qualify for the World Cup for the first time, Finland needs a tight defense that is lead by physical Anna Westerlund in the absence of the injured team captain Maija Saari. There’s no shortage of attitude in this pair.
The team needs to figure out how they can create more scoring chances. Of the active players Sanna Talonen (left) and lightning fast Linda Sällström (right) have been traditionally Finland’s leading scorers.
The future looks bright. Emma Koivisto was one of the key players when Finland’s under-19 team reached the semi-finals of this year’s European Championships.
Emmi Alanen is also going forward after signing with Swedish Umeå IK. The same team where Finland’s retired world-class center axle Valkonen-Mäkinen-Kalmari won several UEFA cup (predecessor of Champions League) and national titles.
Despite the weather and remote location, the team spent a long time giving autographs for their fans…
…a task that defender Tuija Hyyrynen and midfielder Annika Kukkonen seemed to enjoy.
Finland currently leads qualification group 7 after teams have played 1-3 games. Only the group winner will qualify directly. Four best teams that were second in their group will qualify for an additional one spot. On paper France is the favorite to win the group and Finland is the favorite for the second place. Finland will play its two last matches against France in September 2014.
My biggest sports dream has always been to see Finland play in football’s World Cup. Men’s or women’s. That dream is one step closer to reality if you also come to see Finland-Kazakhstan qualifier on Thursday (31-Oct-13) at Sonera stadium, Helsinki. Buy the tickets from here. If Finland qualifies later next year, I will be booking flights to Canada 2015.