Centre-forward Juliette Kemppi took the scoring plaudits after Finland's 1-1 draw with Sweden on Monday yet she could not have done so without the inspirational wing play of Iina Salmi.
It was Salmi, the 18-year-old deployed down the left flank, who helped bring Finland out of their shells after a timid opening to the Group B contest. Marija Banušić's early goal for the title holders owed something to tentative Finnish defending and it punished a slow start by Marianne Miettinen's team in Llanelli.
"First we were a bit nervous," admitted PK 35 Vaanta prospect Salmi, whose ambitious shot from distance midway through the first half at Stebonheath Park seemed to galvanise her side. "Then the game was rolling and we played quite well." A subsequent Salmi free-kick quickly led to Finland's first real chances, heralding an increasingly dominant display against their Nordic rivals.
"When we create a lot of chances, it gives us more confidence and we knew we could score," Salmi said of the turnaround. "We were the better team. It's frustrating but at the same time important that we got one point at least."
That the Finns registered a draw was down to the combination of their slender No7 and Kemppi, the No9 who got on the end of Salmi's 60th-minute cross to head the equaliser. "Juliette makes very good movements all the time and it's always easy to see where she is and to put the ball where she wants it," explained the supplier. "Juliette is always scoring important goals."
A strike from Kemppi, who plays for Finnish Women's League leaders Åland United, also kick-started Finland's 2-1 comeback triumph over last year's runners-up Spain in October's first qualifying round. The team then overcame 2012 semi-finalists Portugal on Portuguese soil in the second round, one of six successive victories in qualification. That winning run ended on matchday one, yet Salmi expects an improved showing against another Scandinavian opponent, Norway, on Thursday.
"We played well but I think we can get another 10% out in the next game," said the teenager, who graduated from high school in the spring. "We're confident because we played so well. Everybody always thinks Sweden is better than Finland, but we're better. We didn't lose a game in qualifying and now, although there's a bit of disappointment about the draw, we can take the good things from our performance and apply them in the second game.
"We really wanted to score more on Monday, so hopefully the next game will be our day and we can put those balls away and get three points. In this tournament every team is tough so you can't expect to create so many chances, yet against the Swedes we had quite a few. In fact it was surprising how many opportunities we had. We'll have to put those chances in the net next time."
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