Finland’s Championship Chances Lie With Its Youth

IIHF World Junior Championships

• U19 footballers drawn in group 1
• Russia, Belgium & Kazakhstan
• 2016 WJC roster published too

If you’re Finnish gambling laws of investment and return are likely to see efforts made at the very basis of football pay off in the coming years, you’re probably right, but you will have a little more time to wait before seeing the fruits of your labors. That said the U19 side might well surprise its fellow group members as the long march to Georgia in 2017 gets underway, Finland’s championship chances better than ever.

A Finnish friend of mine who shall remain nameless (because if I made an attempt to spell his surname he’d stab me in the face with an ice skate) took me to task for complaining about Norwegian dominance of Alpine skiing last week. He feels I should perhaps have kept my mouth shut and just suggested that betting on Norway to win everything was an easy way to pick up money even if the odds weren’t stellar. I suppose he’s right, if a little disloyal to his nation when it comes to snow-based sports.

He is, when sober, a football fan, and when drunk he’s a football hooligan, and was moderately happy with the U-19 UEFA Cup draw that put his home side of Finland in Group 1 of the competition for the 2017 championship. That means their campaign will begin with a mini tournament in Belgium next year against the ever surprising Russia, the hosts Belgium and Kazakhstan who’ll be out to prove they’re not the runt of the litter, a line up that gives Finland’s championship chances quite a boost.

Finland’s standings in the world of football have never been much to write home about but with a concerted effort at the grassroots level there’s an expectation that this will begin to see dividends at the U-19 level and that they may well give the other teams a run for their money. Whether they can fight through to the final 8 teams that’ll head to Georgia for the finals in 2017 is another matter, but there’s certainly hope of reaching the “elite” round.

Finland’s Championship Chances Higher In Ice Hockey

Kaapo Kahkonen

Young players like Kahkonen are coming back to Finland for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Champions (Photo: Lansivayla)

Those that like to bet on sports in Finland, who may possibly tire of backing their neighbors to win anything that involves sliding on snow, will be able to find decent odds on their U19 side at ComeOn! Sportsbook when the time comes but in the meantime there’s Finland’s championship chances in the ice hockey juniors to peruse as rosters get a public airing and the future stars of the ice hit their skates ready for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships that will be held in Helsinki.

Drawing together prospects and hopefuls, either just starting out or awaiting being drafted next year, the tournament will see a lot of young players return home from overseas teams, with Kaapo Kahkonen coming back from Minnesota, the likes of Vili Saarijarvi winging their way back from Detroit and Jon Juulola leaving Chicago to represent their country in this showcase of future talent. Forwards from Tampa (Jonne Tammela) New York (Aleksi Saarela) and Dallas (Roope Hintz) will also make the journey.

Of course it’ll be Jesse Puljujarvi, Patrik Laine and Olli Juolevi that will be the center of attention each having gained an A rating from NHL Central Scouting when it ran its “Players to watch” list back in November, and each likely to increase Finland’s championship chances, however there are still some gaps in the Finnish roster that Coach Jukka Jalonen will want to fill in, notably Mikko Rantanen (Colorado) and Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh) who may not make the start of the training camp in Vierumaki but will almost certainly be on the ice for the tournament itself.

IIHF World Junior Championships In Helsinki


Finland has high hopes for the Helsinki junior championships (Photo: YouTube)

With many of the players expected to be draft picks next year this really is the shape of things to come so you can expect as many team scouts to be at the games as fans when the whole thing gets underway on the 26th of December. The Finns already know their first match will be against Belarus in the Hartwell Arena, a game they should comfortably win, and I’m gambling news of that result might well mark Finland down as likely to stroll off with the trophy.

Not that their bitter rivals Sweden will make it easy for them but their first game is against the surprising Swiss whilst Russia take on the Czechs and the USA go up against neighbors Canada in what is likely to be a very fast paced encounter. However there’s still a way to go and form and team cohesion will be easier to assess when some of the pre-tournament exhibition matches are played mid-way through the month, where we’ll find out just how good Finland’s championship chances are this time round.

Who’ll win through? Well you can find the odds at ComeOn! Sportsbook and the like, and frankly it’s probably closer than it looks with the tournament notorious for providing some surprises amongst the statistics. The international flavor of the event often raising the spirits and skills of some players who, like the best foreign players in the NBA, may not have got the spotlight as much as they may have wished with their overseas employers and can’t resist giving it their all under the glare of the IIHF World Junior Championships.

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