12.06.2021Bayer 04

Hradecky on first Euro finals: 'We've got nothing to lose.'

Finland tried in vain to qualify for the European Championship for over 80 years. After eight decades, the northernmost Scandinavian country have now achieved the long-cherished dream of a Euros finals and they meet their Scandinavian neighbours from Denmark in their opening match on Saturday, 12 June – in the thick of it and full of enthusiasm: Bayer 04 keeper Lukas Hradecky.

Our number 1 talks about the spirit in the Eagle Owls camp, the origins of the nickname for the Finnish national team as well as the reasons why nobody should underestimate the Scandinavian underdog. Lukas Hradecky on…

…the enthusiasm for football in Finland: "I believe there is great enthusiasm for football in Finland. And that has grown during the coronavirus pandemic. Very few sporting events have taken place recently – football is almost the only sport you could at least watch on television. Accordingly, it was the most talked about sport in Finland – also because of the success of the national team."

…on the moment when the first-ever participation in the Euro finals became realistic: "It was after the fourth qualifier, which we won 2-0 against Liechtenstein. After the game and with the nine points we'd picked up, I was with my good colleague and teammate Teemu Pukki in the hotel room. It was really clear to us: 'We can qualify for the Euros.' Then we actually did it with the good results in the remaining matches."„

…on the strengths of the Finnish national team: "The togetherness and team spirit we have here in the Finnish national team is incredible. We are 25 players who are friends of each other. We have a relaxed atmosphere in the team and everybody can really be themselves. There is a very special mood here and I think all of us need that – to know that if you're in the starting eleven then there are 14 other players on the bench who are there for you and support you. It's the best team spirit I've ever experienced in my career. We are very difficult to beat and we shouldn't be underestimated."

…on the nickname Eagle Owls: "In 2007, an eagle owl came onto the pitch in Helsinki causing our game against Belgium to be stopped. That game was won 2-0 so perhaps we should invite the eagle owl back to the match against Belgium on 23 June. (he laughs)"

…on Finland's role as outsiders: "We've got nothing to lose and we definitely aren't at the European Championship just to take part. It's difficult to say whether our opponents underestimate us. I hope so because we aren't as weak as some might like to think. Of course, we are the rank outsiders in our Euro group. But the revision of the Euros means three out of four teams in the group can go through. So, perhaps one win for us might be enough."

…on group favourites Belgium: "Every Finnish player knows every Belgian player. You don't have to be a football expert to know players like De Bruyne, Lukaku and Courtois. It will be a tough game for us. The group is obviously difficult but we are capable of beating big teams."

…on the defensive strengths the Finnish national team: "Of course, we don't have the world-class players that other nations have up front. So you can assume that our game will be based more on counter-attacks and a solid defence – that works for us. Smaller football nations have to be tricky opponents and we'll definitely be that."

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