World Cup Qualifying: Russia at Finland Preview and Pick

World Cup Qualifying: Russia at Finland Preview and Pick

Russia at Finland Wednesday June 10, 2009 1:30 PM ET

by Jason Green of Predictem Soccer

In a huge game on Wednesday night Finland hosts Russia in a key World Cup qualifying game at Olympic Stadium in Helsinki. The loss for either team will hurt their chances of playing next summer, but it would be more costly for Finland. Germany is undefeated and running away with Group 4 with 16 points while Russia is in 2nd with 12 points, and Finland is in 3rd with 10 points. Wales is in 4th place with 9 points, but the battle will be for 2nd place between Finland and Russia since they have played in 5 qualifying matches and Wales has already played in 7.

Finland is undefeated at home in qualifying and they were impressive in playing to a 3-3 draw against Germany back in October of last year. However, Finland was not impressive in beating the weaker teams in Group 4, as they only beat Azerbaijan 1-0 and Liechtenstein 2-1. Russia beat Finland 3-0 in Moscow in October of last year and they still have to play at in group play. If Finland loses this home match they will 5 points behind Russia for 2nd place in the group.

After a successful stint in taking over for Premier League power Chelsea, manager Guus Hiddink will try to guide Russia to South Africa next summer. Russia is also undefeated at home in qualifying games and they looked good in a 2-1 loss at Germany. If Russia loses this match they may have to beat Germany in Moscow in October later this year. Russia may be a little rusty, as they have not played any friendly matches in a while and they have not played a WC qualifying game since the beginning of April.

Even though they are the visiting team Russia is the favorite in this match posted around 1.8 and Finland are the home underdogs posted around 4.4 with a draw at 3.30 with a total of O/U 2.5 goals.

Finland Recent Form:

6/6/2009 Finland 2 Liechtenstein 1 (WC Qualifying)
4/1/2009 Norway 3 Finland 2 (Friendly)
3/28/2009 Wales 0 Finland 3 (WC Qualifying)
2/11/2009 Portugal 1 Finland 0 (Friendly)
2/4/2009 Japan 5 Finland 1 (Friendly)

Russia Recent Form:

4/1/2009 Liechtenstein 0 Russia 1 (WC Qualifying)
3/28/2009 Russia 2 Azerbaijan 0 (WC Qualifying)
10/15/2008 Russia 3 Finland 9 (WC Qualifying)
10/11/2008 Germany 2 Russia 1 (WC Qualifying)
9/10/2008 Russia 2 Wales 1 (WC Qualifying)

Finland’s Mikael Forssell will be the lone striker in this match, as Finland does not feature an attacking style. However, Finland mixed it up in their 3-3draw at home against Germany and played an offensive minded game.

Midfielders Teemu Tainio and Roman Eremenko will drop back on D a lot in this game and will also be counted on to set up the attack when they get a chance.

Russia may use a young lineup, as defenders Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Dmitry Sychev will not play in this match in a decision by Hiddink, but team captain Sergei Semak should start after missing the last Russia WC match.

Mikael Forssell, who plays for Hannover in the Bundesliga, and Jonathan Johansson have to provide the offense for the Finns tonight. The Finns may also have to look for counter-attack goals. Johansson leads Finland with 3 goals in WC qualifying matches.

It will not be easy for Finland to find the back of the net, as Russia has a stingy defense that has only allowed 3 goals in their 5 matches played.

The Finnish defense will have their hands full and they have to watch out for striker Andrei Arshavin, who finished the season well with Arsenal in the Premier League.

The defense of Finland is not their strong suit, as they have given up 7 goals in their 5 matches played.

Jason’s Pick: Even though Finland is undefeated at home in WC qualifying matches and they played to a 3-3 draw against powerhouse Germany, I do not see them winning this match. Russia can, pretty much, assure themselves of a World Cup berth if they can win this game. I think Andrei Arshavin is the key, as Finland will have a tough time containing him. I see Russia winning this match with a close score of 2-1.