Two of the likely minnows in Group B will do battle on Wednesday morning as Finland takes on a badly beaten-up Russian side.
The Finns had an odd opening match against Denmark, which saw the scary collapse of Danish star Christian Eriksen near the end of the first half. The match was resumed, and the Finns capitalized on the absence of Eriksen, riding opportunistic goal-scoring and rigid defending en route to an improbable 1-0 victory. It’s been the biggest upset in the tournament so far, and has the Finns thinking bigger in terms of advancing to the knockout stages.
Another positive result against Russia would go a long way, and it seems probable given Russia’s poor form lately. This a team that entered Euro 2020 amid controversy with poor results in the lead-up, and questionable personnel selection. Those doubts were not eased after a poor showing against Belgium in their opening game in front of a home crowd in St. Petersburg that quickly grew restless. The Russians were outclassed from the start, and they showed little interest in defending, or being creative enough to thwart the Belgian back-line. Team leader Yuri Zhirkov has reportedly left the club, and you have to wonder what the mindset is right now within the Russian camp.
Despite Russia likely still possessing a talent advantage over the Finns, this is very much a case of two squads trending in vastly different directions. Finland are riding excellent momentum and morale, and despite their lineup devoid of natural talent and skill, have to like their chances on Wednesday. It promises to make for a fascinating affair. For added insight, team news, a tactical breakdown, and a betting prediction, please continue reading on beneath the posted odds for our pick between Finland and Russia in Group B action.
Finland vs. Russia Betting Odds:
Finland +0.5 (+125)
Russia -0.5 (-145)
Over 2 (-120)
Under 2 (+100)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Finland vs. Russia Pick:
Expect the Finns to not change all that much from what was a solid opening match showing against their Scandinavian neighbours in Denmark. Finland were well-organized for all 90 minutes, and opportunistic when they had chances at goal. Teemu Pukki looked to be relatively healthy atop the Finnish formation, and he continues to be their main path for goals. Against a porous Russian defense, there could be chances for the Norwich City star.
Russia enters banged-up and questioning their tactics and team selection. As mentioned, Yuri Zhirkov has had to withdraw, mostly due to injury. Meanwhile, Daler Kuzyaev remains uncertain due to a head injury suffered in a collision vs. Belgium. Those are two key players for the Russians, both featuring prominently along the left-flank. Without much depth, that could be an issue for manager Stanislav Cherchesov on Wednesday.
Expect the Russians to still try and push the pace with added possession, compared to the long-ball approach we saw from them vs. Belgium. They still hold a skill advantage over the Finns, and don’t be surprised to see them shift to a three-man defense, allowing for the inclusion of more attack-minded players up front. After losing decisively to Belgium, expect the Russians to push for goals, and a comfortable victory vs. Finland.
The Finns won’t cave to Russian pressure however. This is a team that is very used to playing without the ball, and should be comfortable to sit back and potentially strike on the counter against a weakened defense. Teemu Pukki has the potential to be a big difference maker in a contest that will likely require a bit of brilliance to break the match open, and we anticipate that happening. Though the Finns enter again as big underdogs, it’d be wrong to underrate them against an overrated Russian side. Finland are good enough to hang with Russia for 90 minutes, and backing them on the goal-line at +0.5 at plus-money seems to be the value play in this Group B fixture.