Soccer-Finland primed to deal with Russian backlash


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group B - Denmark v Finland - Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark - June 12, 2021 Finland coach Markku Kanerva Pool via REUTERS/Friedemann Vogel

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Finland emerged from the trauma of Christian Eriksen's collapse to beat Denmark 1-0 on Saturday and they will be aiming to build on that result against Russia as they aim for a spot in the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

The players returned to the pitch after Eriksen had suffered a heart attack, completing the match in very difficult circumstances, and Finland coach Markku Kanerva said his side would be happy with a draw against Russia in St Petersburg on Wednesday.

"Of course, it would be a very difficult starting point to start to play for a draw, it might easily affect the team and make them passive if you only play for the draw, but we will see how it goes, and if we draw the game we would probably be satisfied," Kanerva told reporters.

Finland's defence expects to have to work hard as Russia bid to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat by Belgium.

"Marking their players well when they get the ball into the box is key, and also defending against their free kicks and corner kicks. Their midfield is very dynamic," Kanerva said.

The Danes dominated possession against Finland both before and after Eriksen's collapse but that failed to capitalise on their opportunities, and Kanerva urged his players to be more positive against Russia.

"We have to do the basics better in the next match, we have to make sure that the passing, all the basic things are on a high level and that the players are ready to control the ball, even in tight position," he said.

"It's a little bit of a mystery to us, how Russia will approach the game. We are sure that they will press very hard from the very beginning, and we have to be skilful enough to play through that."

The Russians are bottom of Group B after the heavy loss to Belgium and Kanerva is expecting a backlash.

"They have probably calculated that they will take three points form Finland, and the fact that they won't be satisfied with their first game will probably make them aggressive and concentrated from the very beginning," he said.

"Hopefully, we can respond to that and score a goal, so that the Russian mental strength will be tested."

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)

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