Finland players walking off the filed
Finland players walking off the filed
AFP

Helsinki: Finland were always likely to be Group B underdogs considering this was their first ever EURO. Three points from three games – not to mention a third-placed finish – represented a more than respectable showing, albeit not quite enough to reach the knockout stage.

The most important thing was to show that Finland belonged at EURO – they most certainly did that. The team were defensively compact for much of their campaign and ensured a contest against each of their opponents.

Finland put in an admirably brave performance against Belgium in their final group fixture, eventually succumbing to a 2-0 defeat in St Petersburg. Though the team's qualification looked unlikely after that result, thousands of fans stayed behind after the final whistle to salute Markku Kanerva's squad.

Finland have the monkey off their back now, having had that first taste of major tournament football. The nucleus of the side may not be around a couple of years from now, but the psychological effect can be remarkable. For the next generation EURO is not just a dream, it can be something tangible – hopefully there is more success to come.

It would be easy to predict that Belgium will go far from the same group, but there are several teams who I can imagine having their name on the trophy come 11 July.

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