Coach Mixu Paatelainen and captain Niklas Moisander hailed the spirit displayed by Finland on Friday as they fought back to record a surprising 1-1 draw with Spain in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group I.
The world and European champions were on course for victory when Sergio Ramos, making his 100th appearance for La Roja, headed the hosts into a second-half lead in Gijon. However, Teemu Pukki earned Finland, who have only played three matches and are bottom of the section, just their second point of the campaign with a 79th-minute equaliser.
The atmosphere at full time was one of jubilation in the Finland squad, with Paatelainen praising his charges for their indefatigable approach and the stoic rearguard action which enabled them to leave El Molinón with an unlikely share of the spoils. "All credit to the players, they performed fantastically, did not give up at any moment and did everything as we had planned," said the former Finland striker. "Of course, we had to defend a lot, but so does every team against Spain – that is no slight on us."
Far from being cowed by Ramos' goal, Finland stuck to their task and were rewarded when Pukki provided the finish to a rare counterattack. "We made some small changes after Spain took the lead, played a little more positively and got the equaliser," added Paatelainen. "After it became 1-1, we showed great fight until the final whistle. It was a good game and a great result. We came from behind and that shows the spirit our players had."
Moisander, meanwhile, said it is "hard to believe we earned a draw against the world's best team", the AFC Ajax centre-back adding: "It is a fabulous point and it took a brilliant fight from us. We knew nobody expected anything from us and that gave us a little bit extra spirit. We wanted to show miracles can happen and we did so."
Paatelainen regards the draw as the latest sign of encouragement in the development of his side, who are "still getting better". "It was a fantastic achievement, but this team is not yet at its best," he said. Moisander added: "This result was something we needed and now everything looks much better."
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