Finland has faced a setback in their quest for automatic qualification for Euro 2024, experiencing three consecutive defeats in Group H. Despite this, their performances in the Nations League secure them a spot in the play-offs. In contrast, Northern Ireland, Friday’s opponents, lack a second chance after a disappointing campaign, securing points only in 2-0 and 3-0 victories over San Marino.
Notably, Northern Ireland, led by Michael O’Neill, has struggled with 1-0 defeats in Group H, emphasizing concerns about their limited attacking prowess. Excluding wins against San Marino, they’ve managed to score only twice in six games.
Looking ahead, Finland may reintroduce Jere Uronen at left-back, while Lukas Hradecky of Bayer Leverkusen captains the team, and Teemu Pukki seeks to add to his 38 international goals. On the other side, Northern Ireland faces challenges with the absence of suspended Shea Charles and an injury to Jonny Evans, leaving Conor Hazard in goal.
Recent statistics show that Finland has seen both teams score in only two of their last 10 internationals, maintaining clean sheets in their last six victories. Additionally, 16 of Finland’s last 20 home matches had under 2.5 goals. Conversely, Northern Ireland has faced a string of losses, with seven out of their last 10 defeats ending in a 1-0 scoreline.
In terms of prediction, Finland, heading for the play-offs, holds an advantage over Northern Ireland, already unable to qualify for the upcoming Euro finals. While league position implications are minimal, both managers aim for positive results, with Finland’s Kanerva seeking to break a three-match losing streak. Considering Finland’s strong defensive record, especially in recent wins, and goalkeeper Hradecky’s confidence, they appear poised to secure a victory with a clean sheet.