A Fitting End for The Silver Generation

Wed, Oct 13, 2010

Finland, Finnish National team

If there was one road to redemption for the Jari Litmanen/Sami Hyypiä generation, it was avenging the bitter loss of 11.10.1997, but it wasn’t to be. I guess it couldn’t have ended any other way. What started exactly 13 years ago ended in identical  fashion. Finland had their throats slit by the Hungarians yet again. The Silver Generation is dead.

Last nights game was a microcosm of everything the Litmanen/Hyypiä generation represented: hope, optimism and ultimately falling short. It is sad to think that two of the greatest Finnish footballers ever will be remembered more for their shortcomings than their greatness, at least where the national team is concerned. Litmanen and Hyypiä, Superman and Batman. Well, if Superman and Batman got their asses kicked on a regular basis.

Although over the last 13 or so years we’ve seen the greatest crop of Finnish players come and go, it doesn’t deserve the moniker ”Golden Generation”. That would imply there was winning taking place, and that certainly didn’t happen during this era. So we’ll go with silver, or perhaps The Eternal Bridesmaids. This generation was defined by failure rather than success. What began with Hungary ended with Hungary. Until that point in 1997, the national team had been pretty much of an afterthought. Those qualifiers triggered a new level of hope and anticipation, but it’s over now. Finland has returned to it’s old status of also-ran from way back when.

The match itself was odd. Nothing much happened in the first half, then it all exploded to start the second. A lasting image of the Stuart Baxter regime is his inability to act. He only reacts, and slowly at that. Never mind that Finland couldn’t make a forward pass all first half, no need to change anything. Finland looked like they wanted the draw. Problem is, the team held back on pushing forward for so long that when they did decide to shake things up (the 71st minute double sub), it meant desperately pushing everyone forward and exposing the back instead of pushing forward gradually.

I mean, it’s not like moving Mika Väyrynen to his natural position at the bottom of midfield earlier would have made any sense, not to mention bringing on Eremenko junior sooner. It took Baxter all of 25 minutes following Hungary’s goal to realise ”Hey, if we play with a more attacking lineup, perhaps we can create some scoring chances!” Considering it was a must-win, that is woefully late. If there is something good to come of the past few games, it is Mikael Forssell discovering his scoring touch. Not a brilliant game from him otherwise, but it doesn’t need to be. Just score, and he obliged, with minimal help. He continues to be a conerstone for whatever happens in the coming years.

When I headed out of The Theater of Broken Dreams after yet another crushing defeat, I was surrounded by a steady stream of shocked people. People of all ages slumped in their seats on a tram. I remember seeing an older fellow, probably in his 60′s, looking absolutely mortified. Someone a bit younger standing next to me just said ”13 years, and nothing has changed”. Those who had followed the national team for decades got yet another shot in the gut. As I headed out of the tram, I saw a group of teenagers hanging their heads and cursing in disgust. They’re too young to remember 1997. If there is some consolation to us old farts, it’s that now the young ones can carry scars of their own. And seeing how the result inflicted collective disappointment and anger on everyday average Joes, I can’t even imagine the torrent going through the heads of Litmanen and Hyypiä. This was it. End of the line.

This story didn’t have a happy ending. Come to think of it, this was a pretty lousy story cover-to-cover.

For years many of us have headed the Theater of Broken Dreams thinking ”This may be the last time we see Litmanen and Hyypiä play”. For Hyypiä at least that seems to be the case. And maybe it would be fitting to see a massive retirement spree. Jussi Jääskeläinen didn’t offer anything in his ballyhooed return. Markus Heikkinen is servicable, but far from irreplacable. Same for Joonas Kolkka and Jonatan Johansson.

As for The King… sigh. His reign has come to a shuddering halt. As I wrote after the Moldova disaster, maybe it’s time to wash our hands of all the grief and baggage of the Silver Generation. Even if a change of guard means a dramatic drop in talent, at least we could wash away the bad memories and the load of never being good enough. It may be bad for a few years, but even so. We’ve gone as far as we can under the current stewardship (or should I sat Stuart-ship).

After over a decade of coming up short when it mattered the most, I think we can safely say we know what to expect from the Silver Generation. They have defined their legacy, for better or worse. The best this country could ever offer was never quite good enough.

Thanks for the memories, guys. It’s time to cut the chord.

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6 Responses to “A Fitting End for The Silver Generation”

  1. Egan Richardson Says:

    I’m not sure I agree with you about Baxter’s tactics yesterday. The substitutions worked – Finland dominated and scored after them – and making them earlier could well have lessened their impact and effectiveness. The selections (Moisander out of position to protect Hyypiä’s place, Jääskeläinen brought out of retirement to block the progress of his understudies), are implicitly supported by Finns because of the implications of not doing so – admitting that the silver generation had failed.

    Baxter was brought in as a kind of therapist – presumably told not to change anything substantive, but coax these players out of their choking habit. I’m not sure he ever truly understood this, or was able to be the kind of shrink Finnish football and its silver generation needs, but in my opinion it was the wrong strategic choice on the FA’s part.

    One thing I’m pretty sure of. Changing one guy at the top won’t fix things on its own, and it will take someone pretty special to make the necessary changes.

  2. Janne Oivio Says:

    It’s not about Stuart Baxter – it never was. I may criticize his tactics, but I never thought he was the main problem anyway. Lack of talent and the inability to choose a direction on the other hand is. Baxter is just a tool, albeit not a very sharp one.

    On the tactics quickly, they worked because Hungary were rattled. You could smell it a mile away after they scored, because we’ve seen it whenever Finland takes the lead in a close game against similar opposition. “please lets not screw up, please lets not screw up…” Finland wouldn’t have had to throw everyone forward in desperation had they been more optimistic earlier on, say by moving Väyrynen down at the half and bringing on Eremenko for Sparv. A risk, I know, but a necessary one.

    I disagree on whether it would take someone special to make the necessary changes. I think I’ve written before that I do believe people in Finland could have been sold on the rebuilding project (in essence tanking one qualifying to bring in the youth), so long as it had a concrete goal at the end, say qualifying for World Cup 2014. Lofty, yes, but it would buy the manager and his superiors time to build and not have to worry about results every time around. The national team has been floundering for a while and we’ve been talking about the rebuild for years, so I do believe people would have bought into it. And to set the young players in you don’t need a top manager, just someone who knows how to handle young players. The results are years away anyway, so the pressure would be off. When its time time go for results, that’s when you bring in the big guns at the top, but not necessary now.

  3. Sebas Says:

    Thanks for your great comments boys! specially I agree a lot with the idea of Janne Oivio of rebuildiong the team with years to come, with the goal of Euro 2014 for example, making the entrance of youngt players witouth pression.

    The first thing is sack the coach, in which nobody confide in him. A coach that dont work good the tam, it´s not able to react good, doesn´t have winning mentality and is afraid to put new young players…..its impossible get a proyect with him.

    It´s momment to play with other coach in the match against San Marino….there are two consecutive matches vs San Marino, is good option to put young players….that can get some experience in easy games and get confidence. For example Lehtovaara in goalie, Roope Riski and Pukki in front, Ojala, Raitala and Toivio in defence….even Schuller, Westo and Riku Riski in mildfield…..now it´s time to rebulid the team with young people and we hace one year until the start of the next qualifiers….it´s enough time….

    And of course it´s impossible to get another Litmanen or Hyypia….but Johansson, Kolkka, Jaaskelainen….are only good players, no stars….I wanted to say with this that maybe we can get a better team now (altought the ausence of super talents Litmanen and Hyypia)….for example…..

    In mildfield Roman Eeremenko is really brilliant….there are other good mildfielders like Vayrynen, Sparv, even Schuller….attacking mildfielders like Eeremenko Jr., Hetemaj….and Hakola, Westo, Riku Riski can be good options, like Hamalainen….in attack Roope Riski is so promising and Puki can be a decent striker….in goalkeeper we have a good keeper like Frediksson but better and youngers like Lehtovaara and Hradecky…..in defense Moisander is really good, Lampi good in the right and youung people like Raitala, Toivio, Ojala….

    Really I think that maybe the next generation will not have other like Litmanen(maybe like Hyypia yes) but there are yuong people with the enought quality to make a very competitive team in two-three years. Only we need a coach able to get a solid team, compitign strongly with anyone team and bringing a winning mentality…..a example you can get with Iceland U-21, or in weak teams like Montenegro, Northern Ireland….making good results….I think that we have more potencial quality that these teams, only we need the adecuate coach, really competitive….

  4. Juan Francisco Says:

    Hello Janne,
    I am just reading your comments and I have a different point of view, especially in relation to your opinion about Sami Hyypia.
    I am a spanish guy who supports Atletico de Madrid. Last October (If I am not wrong)Atletico’s faced Bayer Leverkusen in a match into the Europa League context. Sami Hyypia played there. if you remember the final score was 1-1. I was very impresive for Hyppia’s role in that team. He is not fast at all, but he is always in the right position, he know how to pass the ball strong and quit, he is very goog with his head and I realised he is still some kind of leader ih Leverkusen squad.
    Of course, his experience is a great help for the team.
    If you realise, he is 37, so, it is difficult to find good defender (good players anyway) at that age..
    In my opinion Hyppia could be playing 1 or 2 more years in the National Team. He would be very helpfull both the manager (Baxter) and the youngster who play in his same position.
    In relation to the National Team, I am a bit disappointed. 0 points in the first 3 games (Holland, Moldova and Hungary) is a reason to be a bit… I have a blog (www.futbolfinlandes.com) about finnish football, so my aim is to write that the National team is playing the next Europe Cup or Worl Cup.. Do you think it will be possible?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Reflections on Finland vs Hungary « Huuhkajat - 11. Sep, 2011

    [...] further comment on last night’s match, I recommend Janne Oivio’s article, A Fitting End for The Silver Generation, on Nordic Football News. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  2. Reflections on Finland vs Hungary | Sisu - 13. Sep, 2011

    [...] further comment on last night’s match, I recommend Janne Oivio’s article, A Fitting End for The Silver Generation, on Nordic Football News. Posted Oct 13 , 2010 Categorized: Euro [...]

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