Coach Roy Hodgson said Finland have "to keep our feet on the ground" after an unexpectedly bright start to their UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying campaign.
Having won 3-1 in Poland on Saturday, Hodgson's men earned a 1-1 draw against Group A giants Portugal in Helsinki last night. "We have to keep our feet on the ground," said Hodgson. "Not many people would have expected four points from these two matches. Before the game I would have been pleased with a point against Portugal." As it was, Finland might have been a little disappointed with a draw after their opponents played much of the second half with ten men following defender Ricardo Costa's dismissal for a second bookable offence
"We had our chances, but Ricardo in the Portugal goal had a brilliant match," said Hodgson. Captain Jari Litmanen added: "Portugal are one of the best teams in the world. Maybe they controlled the game on occasions, but we definitely had our chances to win. Many times we have had no points after two matches in qualification. Now we have four and we have to be pleased with that."
Litmanen's Malmö FF team-mate Jonatan Johansson scored Finland's goal after 22 minutes, and he accepted that with such a bright beginning, the pressure was now on his side to keep their good run going. Finland travel to Armenia and Kazakhstan next month before the return fixture against Armenia in November. "We have three qualifiers which we have to win," said Johansson. Feyenoord winger Joonas Kolkka, who set up the goal, noted: "We are facing a new challenge as the onus is on us to take control in these matches. We have to take more of our chances."
Kolkka also gave credit to the capacity 38,000 crowd at the Olympiastadion. "Even while warming up, you could tell that people had really taken notice of our win in Poland," he said. "The atmosphere was exceptional." If they can keep that spirit going, who knows where the Finns' fresh optimism will take them?
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