A historic evening – then Teemu Pukki had to list his main goal memories in the national team. The most recent goal – the record goal – he barely celebrated.
It has felt like it is a matter of time before Teemu Pukki writes history in the men’s national team. It happened in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan.
Two Pukki hits against Kazakhstan gave Finland a much-needed victory in the World Cup qualifiers, and the protagonist finally got to pass Jari Litmanen as the greatest goal scorer of all time.
– It has probably been somewhere in the back of my mind, but I have not focused on the record. It has felt more like an honor to be able to walk past Litmanen when I have approached, says Pukki during the national team’s press conference from the player hotel.
Pukki’s progress in the goal protocol has gone hand in hand with the national team’s progress.
– I have been with the national team for a long time, but if I have to highlight something that I remember in particular, it is the year when we qualified for the European Championships – or really this whole period of three to four years. We have played well and got the results.
The debut took place in 2009 during Stuart Baxter’s time as national team captain. There have been 33 goals in 98 internationals – and some of the hits stand out.
– The equalizer in the World Cup qualifier away against Spain was great at that stage, and then of course the goals come home against Liechtenstein when we secured the European Championship place. Today’s second goal when I passed “Litti” also remains, but I did not celebrate so much when I was not sure if it was offside or not.
Much wants more
But try to find a goal scorer who is completely satisfied. Much wants more – and Pukki had opportunities to complete a hat trick against Kazakhstan.
– It still annoys a little, there were chances to win with more. The most important thing was still three points after the loss against Ukraine, says Pukki, who was generally satisfied with the national team’s offensive effort against Kazakhstan.
Given that the goal difference determines whether two teams stay on the same score, larger victory numbers would not have been completely stupid. Federation captain Markku Kanerva also admits it.
– After 2-0, I thought about it a bit, but it is clear that the victory was most important. It was well done by the guys to gather after Ukraine.
“No rejuvenation process”
The league captain also had to reason a bit about his team selection. Five players were exchanged after the weak performance last Saturday, but Kanerva does not want to talk about pettings or a started generational change.
– It was a short time between the matches and a long journey on it. The recovery is tough. We follow the players’ load and make a balance between who is best suited to play.
– The selections do not depend on age. This is not about a rejuvenation process. We have good competition in certain positions and then I also want to give players the chance to test them.
In addition to the player changes, there was also a new formation. Finland went back to the four-back line and played with a diamond in midfield – Rasmus Schüller as defensive and Robin Lod as offensive leader.
In large parts, Kanerva thought that the line-up worked.
– We wanted to find more threats against their back line. In the first half we did not really find our way between the team parts, but it got better. In the second half we created more and I guess that expected goals was on over two goals. I think we chose the right tactics tonight.
It remains to be seen what Kanerva chooses when the World Cup qualifier goes out on the last lap. In a month, Finland will end with an away match against Bosnia-Herzegovina and a home match against France.