“I’m speechless. This is sick. We made it!”
Finland have qualified for a major tournament for the first time in their history and striker Teemu Pukki could barely believe it.
Actually, the whole of Finland could barely believe it.
Friday’s 3-0 victory over Liechenstein means the Eagle-owls will be at Euro 2020 next summer, securing second spot in qualifying Group J, behind winners Italy
Jasse Tuominen’s first-half strike and a Pukki double – one from the penalty spot – ended a run of 32 failed qualifying campaigns for either the World Cup or European Championship, and sparked jubilant scenes.
Hundreds rushed on to the Sonera Stadium pitch at full-time and manager Markku Kanerva, a former teacher, conducted his post-match interview with fireworks going off in the distance.
Crowds gathered at a huge screen in the capital while a viewing party was hosted in the city by Premier League side Norwich City, whose striker Pukki has become the talisman of Finland’s qualifying campaign with nine goals in nine matches.
His exploits for club and country have given birth to the #PukkiParty trend on social media and the Canaries are hosting an official Pukki Party in a Helsinki night club on Friday. They even opened a pop-up Norwich City store in the city to capitalise on the interest in their star striker.
Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne, who earlier this year gifted a Pukki shirt to French president Emmanuel Macron, tweeted: “An incredible performance, Congratulations and thank you! Oh Finland is, oh Finland is, oh Finland is finally in the men’s soccer championship!”
“Grown men are crying and asking is this really happening,” tweeted one fan in the aftermath.
“Some years ago I said that I will never see this happening. Glad to be wrong with this one,” tweeted another.