Preview: Wales vs. Finland – prediction, team news, lineups


Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Wales and Finland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Seeking another slice of playoff glory, Wales pit their wits against Finland at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday, in their Euro 2024 qualifying playoff Path A semi-final.

Vying to join the Netherlands, France and Austria in Group D of the final tournament, the winner of the Cardiff clash will face either Poland or Estonia for the right to advance to Germany.

Match preview

© Reuters

Elation in the playoffs is nothing new for this week’s hosts, who memorably downed Austria and Ukraine in 2022 en route to qualifying for their first World Cup in 64 years, and such feats must now be replicated if they are to take their place among the European elite.

Amassing just four points from their first four games in Euro 2024 qualifying Group D largely put paid to their hopes of pipping either Croatia or Turkey to one of the top-two spots, but a respectable third-placed finish was secured thanks to a four-match unbeaten run in the second half of their campaign.

The Dragons even managed to eke out a 2-1 beating of Croatia and hold group winners Turkey to a 1-1 draw in that unbeaten sequence, and despite suffering relegation from League A of the Nations League, just competing in the top tier earned them a shot at redemption in the playoffs.

After failing to qualify for a single European Championships between 1964 and 2012, Wales are now potentially just 180 minutes away from making three successive finals and are unbeaten in their last six matches under Rob Page across all competitions.

Furthermore, the Dragons have only been beaten in one of their last 15 European Championship qualifying matches on home turf – although it came as recently as June 2023, a 4-2 loss to Armenia – and have only failed to find the back of the net twice in that sequence.

Finland coach Markku Kanerva on November 20, 2023© Reuters

Group H of Euro 2024 qualifying saw a fascinating four-way tussle for supremacy occur between Denmark, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and Finland, the latter of whom were ultimately forced to accept third place in the section with a praiseworthy tally of 18 points from a possible 30.

Back-to-back wins over Northern Ireland and San Marino in November were inconsequential as far as the automatic qualification spots – nabbed by Denmark and Slovenia – were concerned, but Markku Kanerva‘s side pipped Kazakhstan to the bronze medal position thanks to their superior goal difference.

However, finishing third or fourth would have made no difference to Finland’s playoff prospects anyway – the Eagle-Owls managed to retain their League B status in the Nations League and now need only win two more games to make the Euros finals for the second time in a row.

First-time participants at the delayed 2021 tournament – where their only victory over Denmark was overshadowed by Christian Eriksen‘s harrowing collapse – Finland have three wins to show from their last four Euros qualifying away matches, and not since 2015 have they played out a draw in the preliminary continental rounds.

Since doing the double over Wales in their World Cup 2010 qualifying group, though, Finland have failed to win any of their last four matches against the Dragons, losing both of their 2020-21 Nations League battles before a dull goalless draw in Helsinki in September 2021.

Wales Euro Champ Qualifying form:

Wales form (all competitions):

Finland Euro Champ Qualifying form:

Team News

Wales' Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring their third goal, November 23, 2021© Reuters

Wales boss Page has already been dealt a double defensive blow heading into Thursday’s game, as Wycombe Wanderers’ Joe Low and Swansea City’s Ben Cabango have both withdrawn injured, while Luton Town captain Tom Lockyer is still recovering from his distressing on-field cardiac arrest.

Further forward, Ipswich Town forward Wes Burns has been forced to pull out too, as he suffered a hamstring concern during the Tractor Boys’ 6-0 Championship crushing of Sheffield Wednesday.

However, the injury-plagued Aaron Ramsey has earned a surprise call-up – albeit one which left Cardiff boss Erol Bulut miffed due to an alleged lack of communication on Wales’ part – and the 33-year-old did manage to come off the bench against Swansea City in the weekend’s Championship affair.

Page’s biggest selection quandary arguably comes in goal, as all of Danny Ward, Wayne Hennessey, Tom King and Adam Davies have only been on the fringes of their club teams this season; the former is seemingly in line to get the nod despite not playing a single minute for Leicester City.

Similarly, Finland have also been hit by two concerns ahead of the playoffs, as Inter Miami midfielder Robert Taylor has withdrawn, as has Middlesbrough striker Marcus Forss, who is nursing a leg injury.

Regardless of Forss’s fitness levels, former Norwich City hero Teemu Pukki – now making nets ripple for Minnesota United – should earn his 119th cap at the tip of the attack and needs just one more goal to reach the 40-mark for his country.

Leeds United’s Glen Kamara will represent another recognisable name in the midfield trident, while Lukas Hradecky – on course to become a Bundesliga winner with Bayer Leverkusen – takes his place in goal over Exeter City’s Viljami Sinisalo.

Wales possible starting lineup:
Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Ampadu, Levitt, Williams; Wilson, Johnson; Moore

Finland possible starting lineup:
Hradecky; Soiri, Hoskonen, Jensen, Uronen; Kamara, Schuller, Jensen; Lod, Pukki, Pohjanpalo

SM words green background

We say: Wales 2-0 Finland

Since reuniting in the 2020-21 Nations League, Wales have only shipped one goal against Finland in 270 minutes of football, and an ageing Huuhkajat attack were hardly convincing in a 2-1 win over perennial whipping boys San Marino a few months ago.

The Dragons are seldom outclassed in home Euros qualifiers either, and with the likes of Harry Wilson, Brennan Johnson and Kieffer Moore coming good in the final third for their clubs right now, we can only envisage Page’s men marching on to next week’s final.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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