Football might not be the first thing that springs to mind if you were to think of Finland.

Long winter nights, saunas, Lapland, reindeer. A quick google search highlights telecommunications company Nokia as its most famous exporter, and that it is renowned for being "the happiest country in the world" with the best education system and cleanest air… oh, and the hotel where this reporter has been staying boasts "the best tap water in the world", too.

Little mention of football, though. After all, ice hockey is the prominent sport here.

Finland qualified for Euro 2020, but their sole win in the competition was overshadowed by the fact it came in a game in which Denmark's Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch in Copenhagen, having suffered a cardiac arrest. It was the nation's first appearance at a major international tournament.

Not that there haven't been some notable Finnish players down the years. Jari Litmanen played for Ajax, Liverpool and Barcelona throughout a long career. Sami Hyypia spent a decade at Anfield from 1999 to 2009, while Jussi Jaaskelainen played in the Premier League for 18 years over spells with Bolton Wanderers and West Ham. Laura Osterberg-Kalmari was nominated for FIFA Women's Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006.

More recently, Teemu Pukki has impressed with Norwich and Lukas Hradecky has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Bundesliga across recent seasons.

Hradecky, now at Bayer Leverkusen, made his name at Eintracht Frankfurt, and it is the German side – Europa League winners last season – who have travelled across the Baltic Sea to take on the might of Champions League holders Real Madrid in the Super Cup.

Litmanen, Osterberg-Kalmari and Jaaskelainen were all guests at UEFA's fan park on Tuesday, a day ahead of the match at the 36,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.

The Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup trophies were on show, though outside the fan park it would have been easy to miss that there was a major European match heading to the city. Indeed, on the opposite side of Helsinki’s grand central train station to UEFA's festivities, a music and arts festival was drawing a much larger crowd.

That will surely change on Wednesday.

Madrid are expected to bring approximately 1,800 fans. Meanwhile, 10,000 are anticipated to be arriving in support of Eintracht. 

The signs were there even as Stats Perform arrived in Helsinki on Monday, with pockets of Eintracht supporters travelling into the city. A day later, the fan park was mostly populated by local football fans enjoying the rare occasion of such a major sporting event – involving one of the world's biggest clubs – coming to their city.

Helsinki's centre will likely be a hub for Eintracht's travelling masses, and even as Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti ran the rule over his side in an opening training session on Tuesday, fans of the German team were making their presence heard outside the ground as the team coach departed.

It's nothing new, though. Barcelona coach Xavi was left furious last season after 30,000 visiting Eintracht fans were said to have managed to gain entry to Camp Nou to watch their team sensationally knock out Barcelona in the Europa League quarter-finals. For the final against Rangers, held in Seville, authorities estimated that 50,000 Eintracht supporters made their way to the Andalusian city.

"They played a big role, if I remember the game in Barca, 30,000, something special and it helped us a lot to perform at this level. They're not here to sightsee, they're here to support us because they believe in us," said goalkeeper Kevin Trapp in Eintracht's pre-match news conference.

"Tomorrow will be the same, we know there’s going to be 10,000 again. We try to give our best and be able to celebrate again. It's a huge part of this club, this team, it's helping us every time."

Eintracht might have the more raucous travelling support, but any local neutrals are likely to be in attendance to watch the stars of Madrid. Ancelotti, asked about his brief experience of Finland so far, compared the country to Canada, the home of his wife, and in training his team looked sharp as they put on a show for the assorted media and a small group of fans soaking in the late evening sun.

Karim Benzema and Luka Modric accompanied Ancelotti in Madrid's media conference, just two of the superstars set to line up in all-white on Wednesday. Ancelotti, as amiable and as composed as ever, confirmed both players would start – unless they had any objections. His team are just rounding off their pre-season, and there were some signs of players still shaking off some rustiness in the finishing drills that ended their practice session.

Eintracht opened their Bundesliga campaign with a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich, and head coach Oliver Glasner knows that, even if his side are underdogs, they cannot show such naivety against the 14-time European champions. With key player Filip Kostic absent to complete a move to Juventus, Eintracht must avoid another humiliation, even if it is an outstanding achievement to have reached this showpiece in the first place.

As for Helsinki, it might be a far cry from the football hotbeds of Paris, London, Milan, Munich or Madrid, but those cities have their fair share of big matches already. The welcome has been warm, the weather perfect and the stadium – constructed in the 1930s but recently renovated – an ideal venue.

Interviewed after his appearance at the fan park, Litmanen told Stats Perform: "It's very important for us to have this kind of game because we don't see these things very often. We cannot get the Champions League final we haven't been in the World Cup or the European championships. This is a big game for Finland."

Now it's time to enjoy the show.

Eintracht Frankfurt's defence must be "special" to deal with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema-inspired attack in the Super Cup, according to head coach Oliver Glasner.

Europa League winners Frankfurt take on the Champions League victors in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Yet Frankfurt come into the clash on the back of a 6-1 home hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich in their opening Bundesliga fixture on Saturday, while they are also without their creative hub in the form of Filip Kostic, who has been left out of the squad to seal a transfer for Juventus.

While confident his team can come away with a surprise victory at the Olympic Stadium, Glasner acknowledged they must be far less open than they were against Bayern, who were 5-0 up by half-time.

"If we have to play against Real, we need a special defence, especially [against] Benzema, who was the best scorer in the Champions League, really great in box, but it's important that the players who give him passes, whoever plays, that we prevent the players passing into the box because it will always be very difficult to defend Benzema," said Glasner in a news conference.

"That's the idea, act in a compact manner, pressure Madrid so they don't have very much space.

"We're feeling very good, looking very much forward [to the game]. Great compensation for the Europa League final, for the win, playing the Super Cup now, playing a Champions League winner that knocked out Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

"Of course, the team that waits for us is high quality, we want to show our best football, give our best on the pitch... we're not really scared, we're looking forward to it.

"We showed last year on the European stage there's always a chance, we took that chance."

While Frankfurt, who defeated Barcelona en route to winning the Europa League, might be inexperienced when it comes to matches of this magnitude, they have signed a player who is very much accustomed to big occasions in the form of Mario Gotze. 

Former Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund playmaker Gotze, who scored Germany's winner in the 2014 World Cup final, joined Frankfurt from PSV, and Glasner is delighted with his impact so far.

"We are glad that Mario joined us. He integrated really quickly, his technical qualities, his sense for finding solutions, he's very zealous, running a lot," Glasner said. 

"He already played 50 or 60 Champions League matches, he has a lot of experience at this level, so for him it's not the newest thing to play against teams like Real Madrid."

Another player who has played for one of Europe's biggest clubs is Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who insisted he will not do anything different to prepare for the game, despite going up against the likes of Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

Trapp said: "There are butterflies in my stomach, but I am happy to play in this game tomorrow.

"It's a huge possibility to show our strengths, but I don't prepare in a special way, everyone knows these players and their qualities, how strong they are.

"My job is always the same, to help the team not concede any goals, that'll be my job, but we will face a lot of quality with Benzema and Vinicius, whoever it is."

An elated Kevin Trapp declared Wednesday the best day of his career, after Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Rangers in the Europa League final.

The Eagles had to come from a goal down after Joe Aribo's 57th minute opener, equalising through Rafael Borre to force extra-time before winning 5-4 in the penalty shootout.

After winning everything domestically in France over three seasons with Paris Saint-Germain, this is Trapp's first silverware with Eintracht Frankfurt over two stints at the club, only returning after their DFB Pokal win in 2018.

The 31-year-old was named player of the match and could not hide his joy, helping the German club win their first European trophy since 1980.

"I don’t have any words for that," Trapp said post-match. "I've tried to find them but it's impossible. We can present the trophy tomorrow in Frankfurt after 42 years. This is the best day of my career, truly. I'm so proud of our team.

"We were down and a lot of players had cramps. As I said, I have no words to describe this. We won a big international title – I thought I would cry. That didn’t happen, probably because it seems so unrealistic we're going home with a trophy. But for German football, I think we made everyone proud."

Trapp was a critical figure for Eintracht at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, spectacularly denying Ryan Kent from close range in the 118th minute, before then denying Aaron Ramsey to set up Borre's deciding penalty in the shootout.

The Kent save was palpably important with penalties looming, denying Rangers from scoring in what was their best chance of the match despite Aribo's opening goal.

Trapp believes he was fortunate to make that save, but it gave him the necessary psychological boost coming into the penalty shootout.

After Eintracht lost to Chelsea on penalties in the 2018-19 semi-final, he was confident they would not suffer from the spot again.

"It would have been awful to concede in that situation but that’s why I'm there, to help team when they need," Trapp said. "I try that, to make myself as big as possible, but I was lucky. He could’ve shot higher, but that's all I can do.

"If you survive such a situation you do have the feeling you can win, and I had that feeling because the players felt we had to win this one. We lost dramatically to Chelsea on penalties, and this year we said we deserved it. We put so much work in – we had to win it, and this is why we did win it in the end."

Thomas Muller was left "disappointed, angry and upset" after Bayern Munich's unbeaten start to Julian Nagelsmann's tenure was brought to an end with a shock 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. 

Bayern had gone 10 without defeat in competitive games since Nagelsmann replaced Hansi Flick, winning the last nine of those, but they came unstuck at Allianz Arena on Sunday.

Leon Goretzka deservedly put the reigning champions in front, only for Martin Hinteregger to equalise before half-time and Filip Kostic to secure a smash-and-grab win late on.

Kevin Trapp produced 10 saves to keep Frankfurt in the match, with Bayern only finding the net from one of their 20 shots, compared to two goals from five efforts for the visitors.

Muller created a game-high five big chances, but he was left to reflect on a rare home league loss – Bayern's first in 31 matches in a run spanning back to November 2019.

"We are disappointed, angry and upset," Muller told DAZN. "We definitely shouldn't have lost this game. We lacked effectiveness. 

"We felt we had a lot of scoring chances, but the crucial centimetre was missing. Frankfurt scored from their first shot and their two goals in the end were enough."

 

Bayern are now level on points with Bayer Leverkusen at the summit heading into the two-week break after falling just short of making it a perfect 10 wins from 10 since their opening-game draw, and Nagelsmann rued his side's profligacy in front of goal.

"Defeats always hurt and today's defeat was very avoidable," he told DAZN. "We had enough chances to score. 

"In the end we conceded a classic Kostic goal, which was absolutely avoidable. Kevin Trapp played a very good game. We had good chances and didn't take them so we lost.

"When you look at the stats we had 20 shots against five to them. It doesn't matter if we deserved more because in the end we lost. 

"Now we have to analyse what wrong and look forward to the next game in Leverkusen after the international break."

Frankfurt's victory was their first of the Bundesliga season and their first away to Bayern in the league since 2000 when Felix Magath was in charge.

The shock triumph would not have been possible if not for Trapp, whose 10 saves was the joint-most in a single game this campaign in Europe's top five leagues.

Only Oliver Baumann for Hoffenheim against Dortmund and Sascha Burchert for Greuther Furth versus Stuttgart can match that impressive save count.

"I had a lot of work to do today," Trapp told DAZN. "We defended very well. Nobody seriously believed we would get something from Bayern today. 

"We were a bit lucky, of course. We got the maximum out of what was possible. Our plan worked out very well in the end."

Bayern Munich's unbeaten start to Julian Nagelsmann's tenure came to an end on Sunday with a shock 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Bavarian giants had won nine in a row since an opening-game draw and looked set for another routine victory at Allianz Arena when Leon Goretzka deservedly put them in front.

But Martin Hinteregger equalised for Frankfurt before the interval and Kevin Trapp made a number of saves to put the visitors on course for a fifth successive 1-1 league draw.

Not content with only a point, Filip Kostic rifled in a winner seven minutes from time to inflict a first home Bundesliga loss on stunned champions Bayern since November 2019.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.