Toni Kallio lasted the full ninety minutes as Finland effectively ended Welsh hopes of reaching the World Cup with a 2-0 win at the Millenium Stadium.
Kallio, employed by Finland coach Stuart Baxter at left back, had little to do as Wales fielded just Craig Bellamy up front and the Manchester City striker had to continue to come deep to receive possession. It was a frustrating afternoon for Fulham midfielder Simon Davies, who was one of several Welsh players who gave the ball away frequently, and was well shackled by the Finnish defence.
The opening goal of the game came just before the break. Jari Litmanen, who had a brief injury-hit spell with Fulham last season, played a ball through a horribly square Welsh defence. Gareth Bale pushed up trying to play offside and Craig Hennessey dashed hopelessly from his line but ex-Charlton striker Jonathan Johansen finished expertly. The Finns might have had a penalty in the dying seconds of the half too but the Spanish referee waved their appeals away. Just in case you were wondering Litmanen’s questionable fitness hasn’t got any better. His club, FC Lahti, finished third in the Finnish league and qualified for Europe for the first time in their history – but Litmanen’s only appearances came as a substitute.
The visitors had the better of the second period as well. Mikael Forssell should have put them out of side but missed two good chances, his second effort brilliantly blocked by a diving James Collins. The only clear-cut chance for Wales saw Jason Koumas have a shot well blocked by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
As time ticked down, two Fulham players combined to put the game out of reach. Litmanen played in Shefki Kuqi who finished with the kind of composure we never really saw at Craven Cottage during his entertaining loan spell.
Finland will now play Norway in a friendly in Oslo on Wednesday while John Toshack’s young charges play host to unbeaten Germany in Cardiff.