Euro 2020 Special

International Friendly: Nordic Neighbours Gear Up for Summer Spectacle

Sweden 2-0 Finland

As far as matches on the final Saturday of May go, this international friendly was as low-key as they come.

Yet for two Nordic neighbours, this fixture acted as a valuable warm-up for next month’s main event, the delayed Euro 2020.

A goal in each half certainly provided Sweden with two international friendly highlights but, in truth, we learned little new with the tournament on the horizon.


Highlights of the game

Certainly, both sides were looking to build up some momentum.

Due to his participation in the Europa League final earlier this week, home centre-back Victor Lindelof was rested, while Brentford’s Pontus Jansson also missed out, engaged in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

For Finland, five defenders were strung across the back with a block of four midfielders in front of them as captain Tim Sparv returned from a knee injury to play his first game since March, enjoying a 45-minute run-out.

With striker Teemu Pukki- 30 international goals to date – still recovering from an ankle injury, the Finns, who have qualified for the finals of a major tournament for the first time, set up in a defensive 5-4-1 formation and struggled to create much.

In contrast, the Swedes moved Emil Forsberg from his usual starting spot on the wing to a more central position and he played a part in both goals with the result not in doubt as Finland rarely threatened until the closing stages.

Twenty-three minutes had passed when Forsberg found Mattias Svanberg and his pass was slotted home by Robin Quaison.

A penalty from captain Sebastian Larsson 13 minutes after the restart, slotting home after Marcus Berg was brought down in the box by goalkeeper Jesse Joronen, helped Sweden to coast to victory over their opponents – understandably cautious and defensively-minded as they prepare for their first-ever major competition.

Coach Janne Andersson will be quietly optimistic after this fourth consecutive success, following back-to-back wins from their opening two World Cup qualifiers.

He has a strong squad too which will be needed with Spain, Slovakia and Poland all to come in their Euro 2020 group.

If RB Leipzig forward Emil Forsberg, powerful Juventus winger DejanKulusevski and striker Alexander Isak, of Real Sociedad can be on top form, the much-lamented absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be eased to a degree.

Potentially also watch out for Jordan Larsson – son of national icon Henrik.

As for Finland, yes they will be tournament underdogs but have shown a marked improvement in recent years and will carry more of a threat when Pukki returns.

This contest showed the once yawning gap between them and Sweden has started to narrow.

Indeed, substitute Fredrik Jensen almost netted a late consolation goal for the visitors but his stoppage-time shot was blocked.

Will they qualify from their group? Almost certainly not.

But having already surpassed the achievements of Finland’s ‘golden generation’, which featured star names like Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypia but never reached a major tournament, don’t write off the Eagle-Owls from putting up a spirited showing this summer with the SBOTOP international friendly betting odds.

Their final squad will be confirmed on Tuesday.


What’s next?

Armenia are the next visitors to the Friends Arena a week tonight (June 5) in Sweden’s final warm-up match before they open their European Championship campaign against Spain in Group E on June 14.

For Finland, there’s a home friendly against Estonia on Friday evening (June 4) ahead of their first Euro 2020 encounter on June 12 against more Scandinavian opponents in Denmark.




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