Finland v Russia: Eriksen impact will go on but Kanerva hopes players can focus on football

By Sports Desk June 15, 2021

Finland coach Markku Kanerva appreciates what happened to Christian Eriksen will remain with his players long after Euro 2020, but he hopes they can focus as they prepare to take on Russia.

Denmark midfielder Eriksen was given CPR on the pitch after collapsing with no other players around him in the first half of Saturday's Group B game against Finland in Copenhagen.

It was later confirmed the 29-year-old had suffered a cardiac arrest, with Morten Boesen - the team doctor for Denmark - revealing he was "gone" before being resuscitated on the field.

After a lengthy delay, the two nations returned to the pitch to complete the game. Finland went on to win 1-0, Joel Pohjanpalo grabbing the goal with his team's only attempt during proceedings.

While Eriksen is undergoing further tests in hospital - he posted an update on his condition via the Danish Football Union on Twitter on Tuesday, including a picture of him smiling while giving a thumbs-up gesture, Kanerva knows what unfolded will linger in some of his players' minds.

"It is hard to estimate how what happened to Eriksen is affecting different people. Of course we all have it in our minds and we are very glad that he's doing better," he told the media.

"I hope that with regarding the difficult situation, we will be able to concentrate on our next match. Certainly, it will remain in our minds, even after the tournament.

"It's not an easy task all of a sudden to concentrate only on football, because there were bigger things than football in play. Hopefully, we can concentrate fully and do our best."

Russia lost their opening game 3-0 to Belgium but will hope to bounce back against Finland, a team they have beaten in all four previous meetings since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

They have scored at least three goals in each of those matches, though coach Stanislav Cherchesov is taking nothing for granted.

"It was a somewhat surprise result (against Denmark), but Finland's attitude towards the game did not surprise me," Cherchesov, who revealed the injured Yuri Zhirkov could miss the rest of the tournament after coming off against Belgium, told the media.

"Their team is a strong one and they showed it. The game could have worked out differently, but we have known from the beginning that they are a strong opponent."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Finland - Joel Pohjanpalo

Pohjanpalo will forever have a place in history after scoring Finland's maiden goal in the tournament. He will be hoping to help them become the first team to win their opening two European Championship matches since Croatia back in 1996. The 26-year-old spent the 2020-21 season on loan at Union Berlin from Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen, scoring six times in 19 appearances.

Russia - Aleksandr Golovin

Russia endured a tough start on home soil, managing just one on-target attempt as they were soundly beaten in St Petersburg. Aleksandr Golovin did his best in attack, supplying seven crosses and creating one chance. Back in action at the same venue, the playmaker can expect to see far more of the ball after the Russians had just 33.6 per cent of possession against the Belgians.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Finland have only scored one goal in their four previous games against Russia, back in November 1995. That goal, scored by Kim Suominen, was netted past goalkeeper Stanislav Cherchesov, now Russia's head coach.
- Finland's 6-0 defeat to Russia back in August 1995 remains the last time they were beaten by that margin in an international match – current boss Markku Kanerva made his 58th and penultimate appearance for the national side that day.
- Russia are without a win in their last six matches at European Championships (D2 L4), losing each of their last three in a row. They have never lost four consecutive matches in the competition. 
- Since 1980, Finland became just the fourth team win a match at the European Championships while having 21+ shots fewer than their opponents, after Turkey in 2000 (v Belgium), Denmark in 2012 (v Netherlands) and Greece in 2012 (v Russia).
- Pohjanpalo scored his 10th international goal, in what was his 43rd cap for his country – becoming one of only two players in Finland's Euro 2020 squad to have netted 10+ goals for the national side (also Teemu Pukki, 30).
- Yuri Zhirkhov (37 years, 296 days) became the oldest player ever to make an appearance for Russia at the European Championship, overtaking Sergei Ignashevich from 2016 (36y 342d). However, his appearance against Belgium lasted only 43 minutes owing to injury, while only Ignashevich (10) has made more European Championship appearances for Russia than Zhirkhov (9). 

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