Finland vs Northern IrelandEuro 2024, KO: 17:00 Nov 17, 2023, Helsinki Olympic Stadium
NORTHERN IRELAND have suffered plenty of pain in Euro 2024 qualifying and it's hard to see that changing when they play their penultimate Group H game in Helsinki.
Apart from two routine victories over whipping boys San Marino, the Irish have lost every other game in the section, including a 1-0 defeat to the Finns in Belfast. Michael O'Neill's return has been far from triumphant and it's all about building for the World Cup qualifiers with a place at Euro 2024 out of reach.
I cashed in by backing Slovenia to beat Northern Ireland last time out at Windsor Park and a lack of firepower up front cost O'Neill dearly again. He has a tough job replicating the success of his first spell at the helm, which saw the Irish reach the last 16 at Euro 2016, but will be looking for some rays of hope in the final two qualifiers.
Finland can't qualify automatically for the finals after losing their last two qualifiers to Denmark and Kazakhstan, a slump that has seen them drop to fourth place in the section. But they do have a play-off place in the bag so it's all about building some momentum for Markku Kanerva's side in the last two qualifiers.
The Finns made history by reaching Euro 2020, their first major finals, and will be looking to follow up that up by blazing a trail to Germany. With an ageing squad, Euro 2024 could be a last hurrah for Kanerva's current crop but wins over Northern Ireland and San Marino would send them into the play-offs with their tails up.
How the bookies view it
I thought Finland would be a lot shorter than the 19/20 available at William Hill and that looks well worth a punt. Northern Ireland's best price is 10/3 with BetMGM while the draw pays 12/5 at Bet365.
Head to head
That 1-0 victory for the Finns in Belfast evened up the overall head-to-head, with four wins apiece and two draws. When Northern Ireland last visited Helsinki in Euro 2016 qualifying it ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Players to watch
Teemu Pukki has been Finland's go-to guy for goals in the last decade but has netted just once in this qualifying campaign. However, the 33-year-old has been in good form for Minnesota in the MLS this season, netting 10 times in 13 games, so should get the nod to start here. The former Norwich star is 15/8 with William Hill for anytime scorer.
Teenager Dale Taylor has started up front for Northern Ireland in their last two games and could get another chance here as O'Neill looks to the future. The Wycombe forward, on loan from Nottingham Forest, is 9/2 with most firms to grab his first international goal.
Anything else catch the eye?
We only saw one goal when these sides faced off in Belfast and that's why under 2.5 goals is just 8/13 at William Hill while betting against BTTS pays a best 4/5 with the same firm. But with the pressure off for both teams and managers maybe experimenting a little, we could see more goals in this one so over 2.5 strikes might be worth a punt at 13/10 with Bet365.
Finland should have most of the ball as the home team so there could be some value backing them in the corner handicap. Backing the Finns at -1 in that market pays 11/10 with Bet365.
Winger Robert Taylor scored in his last outing for Finland and the Inter Miami man is a tempting evens at Bet365 just to have a shot on target on this one.
This Euro 2024 match between Finland and Northern Ireland will be played on Nov 17, 2023 and kick off at 17:00. Check below for our tipsters best Finland vs Northern Ireland prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.