Finland squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Kuikka, Westerlund...
This summer they are in the group of death with Germany, Spain and Denmark, but that doesn’t seem to worry Signeul.
As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the Finland team is written by Ville Väänänen of STT.
Date of birth: 5.5.1986 (36)
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
“Tinni”, as she is known, is very experienced goalkeeper. She has played more than 100 matches for the national team and she has been her country’s No 1 for almost 15 years. She has won the Norwegian championship with Lilleström and two Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich. Most recently she has been playing in the WSL, first for Everton before joining Tottenham, where she played 11 league games in the 2021-22 season. Her brother has played second-tier ice hockey in Finland while Korpela played basketball for her country when she was young. Her partner Emilia is a musician and she has recorded a song for Team Finland.
Date of birth: 30.10.1994 (27)
Club: Hammarby IF
A goalkeeper who has great reactions and uses her length to dominate the penalty area. She is now in her second year with Hammarby in the Swedish top flight, having moved there after winning the Finnish double with Åland United. Åland is a tiny island of 1,580 km² and a population of around 30,000. She had already had a stint in Sweden, with second division side Hovås Billdal in 2017 and definitely felt she had made the right choice in joining Hammarby. “I had Finland’s best defence in front of me at Åland so I didn’t have that much to do,” she said. “Here at Hammarby the tempo is higher [in training[ and the shots are harder. A proud vegan, she is the most likely candidate to replace Korpela when the veteran hangs up her gloves.
Date of birth: 20.4.1984 (38)
Club: RCD Espanyol
Paula is very experienced goalkeeper who has had to overcome a series of health problems to be where she is. It is truly remarkable that she is still playing at the highest level at the age of 38. When in her twenties she was diagnosed with promyelocytic leukaemia and had to spend time in intensive care after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage. Her life was very much in danger but she came through it. After that, she had very serious pneumonia. “My body isn’t the same after treatments, but luckily I’ve always been strong and stubborn,” she told terve.fi. She has come so far since then, in fact, that she forgot to mention it when she joined Pink Sport Time in Italy in 2019. She is now in Spain with Espanyol.
Date of birth: 21.9.2000 (21)
Club: FC Fleury 91
Talaslahti did not hang around for long when she realised that she could become a goalkeeper at the highest level. She was only 13 when she moved from Finland to Germany to enrol at the Bayern Munich academy. It has not been a straight path to the top but after four seasons in Bavaria and two at Lyon - without playing any official games but part of the squad that won the 2020 Champions League – she is now the No 1 at FC Fleury 91. A first cap for Finland followed, in which she kept a clean sheet against Georgia. A young and tall goalkeeper, she may become Finland’s No 1 for a long time in the future. “When I moved from Lyon to Fleury,” she told her own website. “I felt ready. I felt that it’s the time for me to play now. As a number one goalkeeper.”
Date of birth: 1.12.1995 (26)
Club: Portland Thorns
For the past two years “Natu” has won the best female player in Finland award, confirming her stature in the game in her home country. She stems from Kemi, in the north of Finland and made her national team debut at the age of 17 at Euro 2013. She is now 26 and is playing some of the best football of her career, having won the Swedish title in 2020 with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC before moving to Portland Thorns in the NWSL. The then Thorns coach, Mark Parsons, said: “She is a modern defender who is good on the ball, but also loves to defend. Her attitude will help the team.” After being voted best defender in the Swedish top flight she said: “You never think that you are maybe the best player, although you always try to be it.”
Date of birth: 9.4.1989 (33)
Club: Åland United
The thought of the tiny village of Parainen, south of Turku, producing one of Finland’s best ever footballers maybe seemed remote, but two? But here we are, Westerlund following in the footsteps of Jonatan Johansson, who won more than 100 caps for Finland and played in the Premier League for Charlton. Well, not just following in his footsteps: “Wese” is now the most capped player of all time in Finland, having gone past Jari Litmanen in February 2022, when she played her 138th game for her country. “Sorry Jari, imagine that little me is going to beat that record,” she said at the time, while adding: “I may look hard on the outside but I am a real softie inside.” She was also very talented at skiing growing up.
Date of birth: 2.3.1987 (35)
An experienced former forward who now plays in defence, “Anis” is a tough player who seems to win an awful lot of headers against players who are taller than her. Case study 1: in 2017 she scored the championship-winning goal for FC Honka with a header but collided with an opponent at the same time, earning her a black eye, a photo of which went viral. She is a qualified teacher and worked in schools before becoming a professional footballer. With more than 300 league games in Finland, she moved to Italy in 2019, where she is now playing for Sampdoria.
DOB: 24.10.1999 (22)
Club: KIF Örebro
A next-generation player in the Finnish national team. An extremely versatile player, she is mainly a centre-back but can also play at full-back and in midfield. This season, she has played mainly in midfield. She has packed in a lot into her 22-year-life, having been precocious at snowboarding as well, winning silver in the Youth Olympic Games slopestyle as well as a few youth world championship medals in slopestyle and Big Air. She believes that her background in snowboarding has helped her in football. “Snowboarding is a bit of a fight but it helps with body coordination, balance and the strength in your legs. You have to be really strong as your body bounces around, jumping all over the place, and you have to be really focused,” she said. “I can absorb tackles on the pitch from the ground and I don’t fly around in the air like some kind of ladybug.” Now playing in Sweden with KIF Örebro.
Like Pikkujämsä, Nyström represents the next generation in this Finnish squad. And like Pikkujämsä, Nyström is able to play in central defence, full-back and midfield. Good in the air and a good passer of the ball, she has been playing in Sweden for some time now, with AIK, Umeå and Hammarby. When she moved to Sweden she also started studying law at the University of Stockholm. “You just have to plan your time a bit,” she said. “Socially, I just did the big kick off week but haven’t done anything else at uni and I don’t think I am missing out.”
Brighton &Hove Albion
A modern full-back who likes to go forward, Koivisto can play either on the left or the right (although she prefers the latter). She has played for Florida State University and won the league in Finland (with FC Honka) and in Sweden (with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC) before joining Brighton in 2021. Made her Finland debut back in 2012 but missed out on the Euro 2013 squad. Scored a goal - direct from a corner - and provided an assist on her league debut for Brighton. Graduated with a masters in economics this May from Svenska Handelshögskolan in Finland.
Grew up in a multicultural family with her father being from Morocco and her mother from Finland, Heroum is a skilful player with a very powerful shot. “Snöge”, which is one of many nicknames, says that she got inspired to play football by watching her brother, Samir, play in the garden. “Me and my sisters joined in, that’s how it started,” she has said. “I have always been in love with this sport. My mum used to say that I had a football with me everywhere I went, even when I went to bed.” A veteran Finnish international now, despite being only 27, she has played club football in Finland, Denmark, England and now Italy. Outside of football she is studying sport management.
A mainstay in the Finnish team for more than a decade now, Hyyrynen made her debut back in 2007 and became a starter at the 2009 Euros - and has not given up her place since then. Mainly a right-back she has played on the left too. Her sister Sari was also a promising footballer and they played together for the Finland Under-19 team. “I am a shy person and I have to say that without football I don’t think I would have ever moved abroad, I would just have stayed in Finland,” she told the Juventus YouTube channel.
To say that Tunturi was keen to move to Sweden and Eskilstuna in 2018. Having risen through the ranks in Finland she felt the time was right for a new challenge. A good performance against Eskilstuna in a friendly on a cold February night helped but she did also send some video clips to the club of herself to help her case. A successful trial later and she had made the move to Sweden. “It is a step up,” she said, “from the Finnish league. I got a good impression of the club in that friendly as well as the town as we spent three or four days there.” She is now with Vittsjö in the south of Sweden. A technically skilful player, she always seems comfortable to be on the ball.
A box-to-box player who is very important to this Finnish team. Has probably not had the average journey to becoming a footballer, having grown up in Ostrobothnia, where wrestling is the No 1 sport. Her father has eight domestic wrestling titles and Emmi quickly got into the sport and even got so far as winning silver and bronze at the European Championships youth level. “I opted for football in the end,” she has said, “because I felt more ‘fire’ for it, but it was not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination.” Played with boys until she was 14, she is closing in on 100 caps for Finland.
Öling is 27 now and has certainly had an action-packed career so far. Having played in Finland until 2017 she moved to Spain to join Santa Teresa and after a quick spell back in her home country, she has played in Denmark and Sweden. At her best in a central role where she can initiate attacks with her quality passes behind the opponents’ defence. Outside of football she enjoys reading, painting and knitting while sushi is one of her favourite foods. “I want to have other things in my life than just football and I have noticed that I play better then,” she said in 2019. “I want to do a course in sociology too and after my career I want to work with other people and help those who need help.”
Olga is a box to box midfielder and competing for a place in the starting line-up with Emmi Alanen, Eveliina Summanen and Essi Sainio. Already a captain at one of Sweden’s biggest clubs, Linköping, at the age of 24, Ahtinen has always stood out as a leader. Never seems to stop running and Linköping calls her their “eternity machine”. Grew up in the Ostrobothnia region on the west coast of Finland and in Kokkola more specifically.
An inspiring woman, Sainio has fought back from suffering depression and anorexia to reach the top again. The problems had been there for some years but she was finally admitted to hospital in 2012, weighing a mere 38 kilos. Speaking to Helsingin Sanomat about her journey she said: “My hope is that people will not read this story about just Essi Sainio, who has been through this, but would read this because it can happen to anyone. If this makes even one person wonder if he or she is all right and if he or she is making the right choices in life, then good. Then I am satisfied.” Back in Finland now she is an attacking midfielder who can play centrally or on the wing.
The set-piece expert of the team, she has a wicked technique when it comes to shooting and the majority of her goals for the national team have come from deadball situations. Tough-tackling on the pitch, off it she is an adventurer and likes, among other things, climbing. “Football comes first, but I’m from a little town near Russia so of course I like nature a lot,” she said upon joining Spurs. “I’ve climbed the highest mountain in Africa, I’m always exploring and visiting new places. I’ve heard there’s a lot of castles here, so I’m excited to go out and start seeing them.”
Salmi is a positive, attacking midfielder, who likes to take people on one-on-one. She is often found operating on the left wing but can play centrally as well. She has a quality left foot and scored a stunning long-range free-kick against Portugal in the 2013 Under-19 qualifiers, and a video of that goal was the most viewed on the Finnish FA for a long time. Her twin sister, Elina, has also played top-flight football in Finland. Iina joined Ajax in 2018, saying she “was after a new challenge” and liked “the club’s possession game.” Now with Valencia in Spain.
“Adde” is from Åland which is a small island between Finland and Sweden. She is an open and happy person, and fluent in both Swedish and Finnish, which is a bit unusual for the the Ålanders. Made her Finland debut back in 2012 and is key for the national team with her speed. A series of thigh problems stymied her while at Chelsea but she was part of the 2020 league title squad before moving on to Montpellier and now Hammarby in Sweden. “I think it is important to have a life outside football and for that Sweden is a good place for me,” she said.
Someone who can play in midfield or up front with an eye for the goal. She was the Finnish league’s top scorer in 2019 with 22 goals and scored on her debut for Finland against Croatia the year after. Her brothers Juuso and Joonas are also footballers and have played in the second tier in Finland. While playing for HJK in Finland she also worked at a school. “It helped me,” she has said. “If there was only training in a day it wasn’t good for me. Combining working at a school and training is perfect for me. And it is great to work with children.”
Not afraid to take on new challenges, Koivisto moved from Rovaniemi in northern Finland to the north of Sweden as a 15-year-old. She started high school and soon she was playing for Piteå in the Swedish top flight. It is perhaps no surprise that it was going to be football for the midfielder with her dad, Jarno, having played in the top division in Finland. “We have trained a lot together,” she has said. “I have never had to train alone as he has always been my training buddy. I never had to force Dad to come down, it was him who suggested that we go down to the pitch even 45 minutes before training.” Took a step down to the second tier to join Umeå to get more playing time and it paid off – she has been playing more and her club were promoted to the Damallsvenskan.
Another of the seizable contingent of Finnish players in the Swedish top-flight, Collin joined AIK from Eskilstuna United in 2021, having played for HJK and PK-35 in Finland. “School or work does not make me happy, football makes me happy and I want to be happy,” she said in 2016. The prankster of the national team, no one is safe when she sets her mind on something. Her cheekiness contributes to a good atmosphere in the squad. Asked what the best advice she had ever been given, she said: “Maybe because she is my good friend and a very good footballer but Olga Ahtinen once said to me: “Don’t ever change your personality, because that is your strength in football”.
Someone on the way up, “Katsu” stems from Hämeenlinna and her first team were local club HJS. Played an important role when Finland Under-17s finished third at the 2018 Euros and also as they qualified for the Under-17 World Cup. A quick player with more than a few tricks up her sleeve, she is more than capable of putting a good cross in. Made the move to the Swedish top flight and Umeå in 2022 from HJK and has been playing regularly in midfield.
“Juke” is forward from South-Western Finland, Kaarina, a tiny town near Turku. “Juke” has played junior years in Kaarina and Turku. Then she moved first to Åland. Her first team abroad was Swedish traditional club AIK. Then she moved to Norway. She represented there Kolbotn and Norways top team Lilleström SK. After Norway she moved to England and played there a couple seasons in Bristol and then in London City Lionesses. Now Juliette plays in IFK Kalmar. She is a quite fast striker and she was also in Finlands U20 team in World cup in 2014 and U19 team in EURO 2013. Juliette has won floorball U19 World championship 2012.
Versatile 27-year-old who can play in midfield and in attack, she recently prolonged her contract with Real Sociedad to stay at the Basque club until 2024. “The club is ambitious when it comes to the women’s team and I feel that I have an important role here,” she said after putting pen to paper. “The city is beautiful and for me, living in the northern part of Spain, it makes me feel a little bit more like home.” She won league titles in Italy (with Juventus) and in Denmark (with Fortuna Hjørring) before moving to Spain and has also played in Switzerland. She is a quick player and a good finisher.
Linda is the all-time goalscorer for Finland’s women’s team with 50 goals in 113 games at the time of writing. That is an impressive stat enough but if you consider that she has suffered three ACL injuries during her career - having been out for long periods of time on each occaion – you realise just how good she is. Also competed in athletics - especially 100 metres hurdles and the pole vault - but chose football in the end. Upon joining Paris FC she said: “In the beginning I was a bit shocked about all the kissing on the cheeks. I wanted to do it right so I had to google it: how many times do you do it? Which cheek first?”
“JD” is from Finland’s second biggest city Espoo and started her career at the local club HooGee. She possesses a good shot and is dangerous on set-pieces. AIK is her third club after spells at Kristianstads DFF and Kungsbacka. When signing a contract extension to stay until the end of the 2022 season, she said: “It is an honour to play for AIK. I want to see what this team can achieve.” This season has been tough, though, with nine defeats in the first 10 league games.
Started out as a forward and was the top scorer in the Finnish top flight in 2014, when she scored an impressive 24 goals. Sometimes she has been deployed in midfield too so the goal rate per game has dropped somewhere. She has gained experience from playing in the United States among other places, representing Florida State University, and had a spell in Italy as well, with Tavagnacco. This season, with Örebro, she has been the provider more than the finisher, and was still without a league goal at the time of writing.
Her father, Rami, was a professional football player too. He was a midfielder but could score a goal or two, including goal of the year in Sweden in 1996 when playing for Trelleborg. Her mother, Anne-Maria, was also a footballer and they both coached Amanda and her twin brother, Daniel, who plays for TPS in the Finnish second division. Made a remarkable debut for Finland in a decisive Euro qualifier against Scotland. It was stoppage time when she entered the pitch but still had time to finish a counterattack in the most unconventional way: her shot hit the goalkeeper, rebounded on to her face and then into goal. Overcome by emotions – and some pain, we must assume – she was in tears as her teammates swamped her to celebrate her winner.