Sam WattFinland vs Italy, Sunday 8th September, 19:45, Ratinan Stadion. European heavyweights Italy travel to Tampere to take on Group J rivals Finland on the road to Euro 2020. The Azzurri won the first game between the sides comfortably.
Finland host Italy needing to overturn the result of the game in Udine in March, when goals from Moise Kean and Niocolo Barella delivered a crucial three points to Roberto Mancini’s side.
Finland have kept themselves in contention for Euro 2020 in the games that have followed, though, taking a creditable win in Armenia and an impressive victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina before getting past minnows Liechtenstein.
Italy hammered Liechtenstein, dispatched Greece and snuck past Bosnia and Herzegovia, needing a late Marco Verratti goal to get the three points. Those four wins in as many games put Mancio’s men in a strong position heading into the September double-header, Italy facing Armenia before the Finns.
Finland’s first September fixture was the return bout with Greece, giving Marrku Kanerva’s side a difficult set of fixtures, offset by having home advantage in both. Finland also have the cushion of a Euro 2020 play-off place guaranteed by virtue of their UEFA Nations League results.
But they will still want to send a message and get a positive result against Italy, while both Italy and top online bookmakers should recognise that this is a real test of Mancini’s side.
Italy have though impressed under the former Inter and Manchester City coach, though, and that should continue here, with a 2-0 win not out of the question.
Italy took an early lead when the sides met in March, and wrapped the game up late. Finland will know they need to avoid that fate again and should be more robust, particularly at home. But it’ll only go so far before Italy’s greater quality tells. 888Sport price draw/Italy half time/full time at 33/10.
If the tie is still level at the break and Italy go on to win, then it follows that the second half will have the most goals. Italy duly netted in the second half against Finland, two against Liechtenstein and two against Bosnia and Herzegovina. 10Bet price the second half to have the most goals at 23/20.
Head to Head
Finland have never beaten Italy, having had 12 attempts. Prior to the most recent qualification meeting, Italy won a 2016 friendly, two Euro 2004 qualifiers and a 1977 World Cup qualification game by a 6-1 scoreline.
Kean, who scored in the March game, was left out of Italy’s squad for the September fixtures for disciplinary reasons after being late for a team meeting.
Norwich striker Teemu Pukki is the leading scorer in Finland’s squad and Finland’s joint-fifth highest scorer with 18 goals in 74 games, prior to facing Greece. He’s level with Mixu Paatelainen, but has played more games.
No Italy player named in Mancini’s squad to play Finland is in double figures for goals prior to the Armenia game. Ciro Immobile is the squad’s leading scorer, level on seven with defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Mancini won 36 international caps for Italy between 1984 and 1994, scoring four goals. His Finland counterpart, Kanerva, was capped 59 times for his country.
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