Finland will face off against Northern Ireland on Friday, fully aware that they are unable to secure a top-two spot in Group H.
Despite Finland’s assured playoff place through their UEFA Nations League performances, Northern Ireland has been eliminated from Euro 2024 qualifying.
After a promising four-game winning streak earlier in the group stages, Finland seemed poised to secure automatic qualification for next year’s finals.
However, a three-match losing run dashed their hopes, leaving Markku Kanerva’s team out of contention for the top two spots.
Disappointingly, they scored just one goal in losses against the teams above them.
Despite having a backup playoff place, Kanerva will be eager for Finland to regain their form in upcoming matches against Northern Ireland and San Marino.
On the other hand, Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side has suffered narrow defeats, with five of their six losses coming by one-goal margins.
Although O’Neill expected a rebuilding project, the frequency of their defeats is a disappointment.
However, the upcoming matches against Finland and Denmark could provide an opportunity for Northern Ireland to regroup before fixtures in 2024.
Euro Champ Qualifying Form
Northern Ireland: L-L-L-L-W-L
Following their recent slip-up against Kazakhstan, Kanerva is expected to make changes to the Finland XI.
Jere Uronen and Pyry Soiri could feature, while Benjamin Kallman may be given a chance in the attack.
On the other hand, O’Neill will miss several key players due to injuries and suspensions, with Paddy McNair returning to the squad.
Possible Starting Lineups:
Jensen, Hoskonen, Ivanov;
Soiri, Kairinen, Kamara, Hakans;
Pukki, Kallman, Taylor
Hume, McNair, Ballard, Lewis;
Smyth, Thompson, Saville, Price, Taylor;
Prediction: Finland 3-1 Northern Ireland
We predict a fairly comfortable win for Finland on home territory, as they face a Northern Ireland side struggling with injuries and suspensions.