Finland will host Greece at the Ratinan Stadion in the 5th round of Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
The Finns are yet to make an appearance at the FIFA World Cup or Euros and they are looking to change that this time around. Markku Kanerva’s side are currently 2nd in Group J after 4 games, 3 points behind Italy and leading 3rd-placed Armenia with a similar number of points.Embed from Getty Images
The Huuhkjat lost to Italy in the first game of the qualifying campaign before recovering to beat Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Liechtenstein. Thus, they are at-least ensured of a playoff spot from the group. Also, if they fail to finish in the top 2 here, they are assured of a playoff spot due to their excellent performances in the UEFA Nations League.
However, Finland will look to cement their spot in Group J and maintain pressure on Italy in the hopes of direct qualification for their maiden appearance.
Coming to Greece, they were considered to be one of the favorites to finish 2nd in the group. However, John van’t Schip’s side are currently in freefall and sit in 4th place in the group.
The Greeks have 4 points after 4 games and are 5 points behind their opponents in second place. After beating Liechtenstein in their campaign opener, they drew at Bosnia-Herzegovina before losing to Italy and Armenia to fall behind. Further, the previous round loss to Armenia meant the latter leapfrogged them into 3rd place.Embed from Getty Images
Thus, the Ethniki have no option but to keep getting results in each of their remaining games if they want to keep their qualification hopes alive.
In terms of team news, all eyes will be on Finland’s Teemu Pukki, who has started brilliantly with Norwich in the Premier League, scoring 5 goals in 4 games so far. The 29-year old has also scored 3 goals in 4 qualifying games so far and he will be expected to be the difference between the sides.
For Greece, the key players are Arsenal’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Napoli’s Kostas Manolas in defence while Benfica’s Andreas Samaris provides the experience in midfield.
Head-To-Head and Finland vs Greece Prediction
Coming to head-to-head, both sides met twice in 2018 with home wins in either of the matches. However, Greece have won just once in the last 4 meetings while Finland have won 2 of the last 3, keeping a clean sheet in each of those wins.
Further, Greece are winless in their last 7 visits to Finland, losing 4 and drawing 3. In fact, the Ethniki have lost their last 3 games in a row. On the other hand, the Huuhkajat have won their last 3 games in a row, making them favorites to win the tie.
Furthermore, Greece have never scored more than once in any of their visits to Finland while the home side have scored 2 goals without reply in each of their last 3 games. Finally, Finland have not drawn once in any of their last 7 home games. Adding Greece’s penchant of conceding 2+ goals in 4 of their last 5 travels, one can expect the home side to win 2-0 once again with Pukki getting on the scoreboard.
Finland Predicted XI: Hradecky; Granlund, Toivio, Arajuuri, Uronen; Lod, Sparv, Kamara, Skrabb; Forsell, Pukki
Greece Predicted XI: Barkas; Zeca, Manolas, Papastathopoulos, Stafylidis; Siovas, Samaris; Fetfatzidis, Pelkas, Kolovos; Masouras