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Jun 16, 2021 at 2pm UK

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Preview: Finland vs. Russia - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Finland vs. Russia - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's European Championship clash between Finland and Russia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Finland will aim to carry the momentum forward from their bittersweet win over Denmark when they travel to the Krestovsky Stadium to take on Russia on matchday two of Euro 2020 Group B.

Markku Kanerva's side secured a 1-0 win over their Scandinavian neighbours on a day where football came second, while Russia's first game of the tournament ended in a comprehensive 3-0 loss to Belgium.

Match preview

As historic as Finland's opening-day Euros victory over Denmark was, the scoreline in the top left-hand corner paled into insignificance while the footballing world anxiously awaited updates on Christian Eriksen's condition following the playmaker's cardiac arrest in the first half.

The controversially broadcast images of Eriksen's partner being consoled by Simon Kjaer and Kasper Schmeichel told the story better than any journalist or report could, but upon hearing the reassuring news that the Inter Milan star was awake and stable in hospital, both sets of players elected to continue on Saturday evening.

No goals had been scored before the day's horrific events unfolded, but Finland - appearing at their first-ever game at a major tournament - came up trumps thanks to Joel Pohjanpalo's header, while goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky played his part after keeping out Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's tame penalty.

The decision to continue the game was met with widespread criticism - despite UEFA's insistence that Denmark and Finland's players asked to resume action - but having ultimately come up trumps on the day, Kanerva's men have quickly risen to second spot in Group B.

Victory over the stricken Danes also saw Finland end a six-game winless run across all competitions - as well as bouncing back from two friendly defeats before the Euros kicked off - but Kanerva will certainly not be reading too much into Saturday's win given the unforeseen set of circumstances.

A 10th-minute opener from Romelu Lukaku - accompanied by a fitting tribute to his Nerazzurri teammate Eriksen - set the tone for Russia's clash with Belgium early on, as Stanislav Cherchesov's side were no match for the world's number-one ranked nation during their opening clash.

A frenetic first half was marred by a spate of injuries to both teams, but Belgium were 2-0 up by the break as Thomas Meunier tapped home a second for the Red Devils, and the right-back soon turned provider for Lukaku to net his second of the night in the 88th minute.

Cherchesov's side were never expected to spring a surprise against Belgium on their own turf, and a three-goal defeat means that Russia now occupy last place in the group, but it is still very early days for the winners of the inaugural tournament back in 1960.

However, defeat to the Red Devils means that Russia are now winless in six European Championship games since a 4-1 success over the Czech Republic in June 2012, and all of their last three at the tournament have ended in defeat, but one silver lining is that the National Team have never lost four in a row on the Euros stage.

Furthermore, Russia have claimed four victories from four encounters with Finland as an independent nation - during which time they have scored 15 goals - and Finland manager Kanerva participated in a 6-0 defeat for the Huuhkajat back in 1995.

Finland European Championship form:
  • W

Finland form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W

Russia European Championship form:
  • L

Russia form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • L

Team News

Finland's Sauli Vaisanen had to be withdrawn from the tournament before the win over Denmark due to injury, while defender Nikolai Alho is slightly doubtful as he battles a reported ankle sprain.

Huuhkajat boss Kanerva may largely stick with the same XI in Saint Petersburg - assuming that his players are in the right frame of mind - but Leo Vaisanen may be forced to deputise at right-back after Jukka Raitala had to come off late on against Denmark with a calf problem.

Pohjanpalo's winner against Denmark was his 10th in Finland colours, but he is still some way off catching his strike partner Teemu Pukki, who will aim to build on the 30 strikes he has netted for the national team.

Russia lost veteran defender Yuri Zhirkov to a calf injury just before half time against Belgium and he will play no part in the rest of the tournament, while Daler Kuzyaev was involved in a nasty clash of heads with Timothy Castagne but is reported to be training well ahead of this battle.

There is also optimism over the fitness of Igor Diveev and Fyodor Kudryashov, but Andrey Mostovoy was forced to withdraw after testing positive for coronavirus.

With Russia potentially coping without two left-sided players in Zhirkov and Kuzyaev, right-back Vyacheslav Karavaev could be forced to deputise on that side as Cherchesov reverts to a three-man defence - allowing Atalanta's Aleksey Miranchuk to rejoin the attack.

Finland possible starting lineup:
Hradecky; Vaisanen, Arajuuri, O'Shaughnessy, Toivio, Uronen; Kamara, Sparv, Lod; Pohjanpalo, Pukki

Russia possible starting lineup:
Shunin; Dzhikiya, Semenov, Barinov; Fernandes, Zobnin, Ozdoev, Karavaev; Miranchuk, Golovin; Dzyuba

We say: Finland 1-2 Russia

Having to play another gruelling 90 minutes against stiff opposition is a monumentally difficult ask for Finland's players - all of whom could never have imagined being forced to witness what they did on a football pitch against Denmark.

Changes may be afoot for Kanerva's side depending on what sort of headspace his team are in, and while Russia will be forced into some alterations themselves, we can see their superior quality shining through in a hard-fought win.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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