Cooked. Done. Toast. What does it feel like to lose two years of your life in advance? Now we know.
I’ve been sitting catatonic on my couch for just about 24 hours now, save for the few I could sleep. Every time I try to cheer myself up, one of my few remaining friends calls or sends a message wanting to talk about Friday’s Moldova-Finland debacle. When I say “I don’t want to talk about it”, they laugh and proceed to talk about it. So to spare the country the agony of pulling a Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”, I decided to find another way to vent than to shoot up a McDonald’s or consider going on a killing spree. I’m certainly considering filing for divorce from the national team.
“MOL 2 0 FIN”. Once you see it, it can’t be un-seen. That’s what it read at the top of my TV screen last night and it singlehandedly destroyed Finland’s qualifying hopes for Euro2012 before the campaign even properly started. Whilst I realise many of you will dismiss me as a doom mongerer and perhaps rightly so, I stand by my opinion. This was the one early game Finland could absolutely not afford to lose, because Holland will make quick work of this lot. Even a draw, a nice result in itself, won’t suffice now.
I had a bad feeling about this game beforehand, which luckily my co-workers can attest to if need be, but even my prediction of 1-1 seems rosy now. Not only was the result a disaster, the performance as a whole was hideous and the long term ramifications cataclysmic.
I remember writing on my old blog Pelintekijä about the two year cycle every Finnish football fan has to endure. The group draw followed by building anticipation, decent results to string you along and then getting gutted at the death. Watch the World Cup at home and wait for the next draw. Wash, rinse, repeat. This time I just feel like I lost two years of my life in advance, as opposed to realising it after the last match ended.
Back when the groups were drawn, I made my NFN debut with a piece on Finland’s worst football moment ever, 1997 vs. Hungary when Finland’s hopes were dashed in the last match with an injury time goal. Here’s the point:
“The famous picture of Moilanen grasping air with a look of absolute horror on his face became the single iconic image of Finnish football, and it has stood to this day.
The scars never healed because Finland has dutifully continued it’s inept journey from crushing defeat to crushing defeat. Following lost leads at home to Germany and Turkey in following campaigns, my friend in misery Sasu and I coined a new name for the Olympic Stadium. If Old Trafford was the Theater of Dreams, the Olympic Stadium was the Theater of Broken Dreams. Little has changed since those days.
The 12 year odyssey of mediocrity, being just good enough to get your hopes up but never good enough to get to The Dance continues. They’ll always suck you in with promises of a better tomorrow, a good result here and another there. But in the end, that cold dagger of defeat guts you every two years like clockwork.”
That era is now officially over. If there is anything positive to be taken from Moldova, it’s that now, finally, it’s time to bring on the next generation. For better or worse. It’s not a particularly shining group to be honest, and it’s a horrifying thought that soon Sami Hyypiä and Jari Litmanen will be gone. But is that so bad? Maybe it’s time to wash our hands of over a decade of losing, near misses and agony. The fact of the matter is that there are only two reasonable ways to conduct a national team:
- Go all out to qualify for a major tournament and act accordingly
- Rebuild for the future and then aim to qualify.
Finland has been doing neither for 12 years, but rather sat at a safe compromise, and I’m sick of it. When you have the oldest national team in Europe, you must get results. I don’t care that the performance in Moldova was absolute horse manure, because people who care about aesthetics when a team as small as Finland play against anyone aren’t worth the time of day. It’s the final score that counts, and that alone. And the final score was beyond woeful. It’s not even a coaching thing. I don’t know if Mourinho would have done better. This team has had it.
The only question that remains is, does Stuart Baxter have the balls to go through with the development program he keeps banging on about? No coach wants to risk their CV with losses caused mainly by inexperience and lack of talent. But status quo cannot go on. It’s time to belatedly hand the reins to the next generation. It has to be Mika Väyrynen’s, Teemu Tainio’s, Alexei Eremenko Junior’s and Niklas Moisander’s team now.
What I want is a fair white flag at Palloliitto HQ saying “we must move on, and we’ll start building towards 2014 and beyond”. Be honest about it, and people will understand. Sure, the box office may suffer, but is that really the only point? The guys behind the new veteran leaders need all the minutes they can get.
For once I’d like to see a gutsy move by Palloliitto. This team isn’t good enough to qualify and we should be honest about it. At least give us the future, whatever it may hold.