Markku Kanerva hoping for strong team ethic as Finland host Italy
Finland coach Markku Kanerva believes a strong team ethic can continue to push his men towards Euro 2020 qualification as they prepare to take on Group J leaders Italy.
The Eagle-owls saw off Greece 1-0 in Tampere on Thursday night, secured with a penalty from Norwich forward Teemu Pukki.
It was a fourth-straight qualifying win for Kanerva’s well-organised side, who had topped their Nations League group to secure the safety of a play-off place should it be needed.
Finland, though, could move level on points with the Azzurri if they can produce another impressive display on Sunday.
“Above all, I am proud once again with how the team showed the fight and determination to win and the way in which we ended up playing,” Kanerva said.
“It has been essential to our success. We believe that working together will produce results.”
Despite their progress, fired by the form of Norwich frontman Pukki, the Finland coach knows there is still much hard work ahead.
“We are halfway through (qualifying) now, it looks good, but there is no time to breathe,” he said at a press conference.
“Italy will wait us on Sunday and then there are still two difficult away games.”
Finland will be without captain Tim Sparv for the Italy game, after the Midtjylland midfielder collected another caution against Greece.
Italy head to Tampere on the back of a 3-1 away win over Armenia in Yerevan, where they had fought back after going behind early on and the hosts then had a man sent off.
Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini came off the bench against Armenia to score his first goal for the senior team.
The 23-year-old is relishing the opportunities ahead on the road towards Euro 2020.
“Playing for the Azzurri is a great honour and you must always be ready, no matter what role you are in,” he said, quoted on www.figc.it.
Marco Verratti has not travelled with the squad as the Paris St Germain midfielder will be suspended for the Finland game.