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Sunday, December 17, 2017

GREENLAND FINISH BOTTOM OF NORDIC FUTSAL CUP, BUT PROVE TOUGH OPPONENTS

Finland won the recent Nordic Futsal Cup, which was held in the Norwegian town of Stjørdalshalsen, near Trondheim, from 5-9 December. Five nations took part: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, holders Finland and Greenland. This was the fourth editon of the tournament, which first saw the light of day in Denmark in 2013 and was won by Sweden. Finland won the next two tournaments in 2014 and 2016 without losing a match.

Greenland, meanwhile, were appearing in their second tournament after making their bow last year's competition in Sweden. They finished bottom, but beat Norway to record their first competitive victory. Many of the Greenland team from last year made the journey to north-central Norway, including a number of players better-known for their exploits outdoors.

Finland played Sweden in the competition opener, and won in some style by 6 goals to 1. Sweden took the lead through Petrit Zhubi before the Finns equalised before half-time and ran riot in the second half, scoring five further goals. Miiko Hosio scored a hat-trick for Finland, with Jarmo Junno scoring twice; national team record-goalscorer Panu Autio also got his name on the scoresheet. Hosts Norway then took on Denmark in the opening day's second game, but things did not go according to plan as the Danes won 2:1 before a crowd of 254 at the Stjørdalshallen.

The second day opened with Denmark defeating Sweden by the odd goal in seven with a couple of good goals thrown in, the best of which was Jihad Nashabat's long-range drive for Sweden's third. In the day's second fixture, Finland continued their goal-spree with another four against Greenland, including a brace from Juhana Jyrkiäinen. Greenland's squad contained a large number of players who play both football and Futsal, and it was one of them, Hans-Karl Berthelsen - perhaps one of the country's most talented players, both indoors and outdoors - who tapped home a late consolation goal.

Finland continued their fine run with a 3:1 win against Norway, their third on the bounce, eliminating the hosts and maintaining hopes of a third Nordic Futsal Cup triumph; Miika Hosio - who plays in Italy for GS Giovinazzo - scored for the third game in a row. 

Next up was Sweden against Greenland, and it was a see-saw 40 minutes, with Søren Kreutzmann giving Greenland an early lead before Sweden hit back with two goals in three minutes to lead at the break. Niklas Thorleifsen equalised in the 28th minute, but parity lasted for just 12 seconds as Niklas Asp put the Swedes back in front. Kuluk Ezekiassen levelled with six minutes left, but then it all started to go wrong. The normally dependable Malik Juhl received his second yellow card a minute later, and seven seconds after that, Carl Frederik Johnsson drove the ball home from distance to put Sweden back into the lead. Kadivac sidefooted home Sweden's fifth in the 38th minute to put the result beyond doubt.

The penultimate day of the tournament kicked off with Denmark up against Greenland, and in spite of only a few dozen spectators in attendance, it was another competitive match between the two teams. Greenland raced into a two-goal lead, Kuluk Ezekiassen putting them in front after 10 minutes with Ari Hermann doubling their lead three minutes later. The Danes roared back with two goals in 5 minutes half-way through the second half; Brian Mengel Thomsen reduced the arrears in the 28th minute, and Magnus Rasmussen brought the Danes back on level terms five minutes later.

Norway recorded their first win of the tournament when they defeated Sweden 3:1 in the latter team's final match of the series; it was level pegging at the break, but second-half goals from Rune Ovesen and Wiseth secured the win to all but condemn the Swedes, runners-up last year, to fourth place in the competition.

Going into the final day of action at the Nordic Futsal Cup, Finland only needed a draw against Denmark - the only team who could catch them - to secure their third title in a row; the Danes needed a win. It seemed that Jukka Kytölä had set the Finns on their way with a goal in the second minute, but Zakaria El-Ouz levelled with four minutes left in the first half before Mads Falck Larsen put Denmark in front just shy of the half-time whistle. Kytölä's brother Mikko side-footed in the equaliser before Jarmo Junno put Finland ahead in the 32nd minute before hitting the post from the penalty-spot moments later. Confidence was restored in the Danish camp with three minutes left when Magnus Rasmussen tied things up again with a rather fine finish after a darting run from midfield. But, just seconds after conceding, Finland had the last word courtesy of Miiko Hosio, who finished off a counter-attack, stroking home a pass from Jukka Kytölä to ensure Finland did indeed register their third title in a row.

It was left to Norway and Greenland to conclude proceedings, and the 220 spectators who turned up were in for another see-saw 40 minutes of Futsal. Erlend Vie put the hosts ahead in the first minute. Frederik Funch missed a golden chance to equalise for Greenland when he side-footed wide with the goal gaping; at the other end, Erik Valla Dønnem's shot from the right-hand side struck the far post. Greenland would not be denied, though, and an unmarked, ambling John Ludvig Broberg calmly slotted home the equaliser three minutes into the second-half with the Norwegian defence static. 

Three goals followed in as many minutes midway through the sedond-half. First, Tobias Schjetne thundered home a free-kick to put the home side 2:1 up in the 29th minute, though questions must be asked about the Greenland defence as Schjetne's shot evaded the defensive wall, goalkeeper Malik Mikaelsen and a defender on the goal-line. Then, Hans Karl Berthelsen put Greenland back on level terms seconds later, finishing off a one-two with Kuluk Ezekiassen with a feint which deceived two defenders and a fine shot from the right-hand side which flashed past goalkeeper Kenneth Rakvaag. And, on the half-hour, Søren Kreutzmann started and finished off a flowing move to put the Greenlanders in front, evading the Norwegian defence by getting on the end of a pass from Malik Juhl and stroking the ball past Rakvaag. 

A win was within sight for the visitors, but a warning shot was fired across the bows when Norway's Ayoub Blomberg struck the post with a good effort from the left touchline. Time was ticking away for the Norwegians when they took off goalkeeper Rakvaag and sent on Valla Dønnem again as the fifth outfielder, and it was he who fired home the equaliser with two minutes to go, capitalising on a loose ball which had deflected off Berthelsen and putting it out of reach of Mikaelsen to make it three goals apiece.The draw was enough to put Norway into third place on four points.

There was no disputing Finland's position at the top of the pile at the end of a quite open competition, but apart from their 6:1 demolition of Sweden, there was relatively little discernible difference in standard between the five sides. It must be said, however, that the Nordic region is still something of a backwater as far as Futsal is concerned. Only Denmark have ever taken part in a major tournament, in the first Futsal world championships back in 1989, and that was only due to their accepting an invitation to compete. But, the Nordic Futsal Cup is a chance for the Nordic teams to hone their skills, and for Greenland to gain experience.

And, although they did not manage to win a game at the tournament, Greenland's performance was encouraging. Not only did they draw two of their four matches, they proved stubborn opponents and showed that they could play a bit, too. In an interview with Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq, player-coach Kaassannguaq Zeeb was encouraged by the team's performance, but added that the tournament was a learning experience for his squad, many of whom were new to international Futsal. He also said that the team needs to be harder, more clinical in front of goal and to work on tactics. Still, it is good to see the standard of Futsal improving in Greenland, and hopefully FIFA and UEFA can find a way to work together with the GBU to ensure that progress continues to be made.



RESULTS

05/12/17 Finland 6:1 Sweden (Hosio 3, Junno 2, Autio; Zhubi)
05/12/17 Norway 0:1 Denmark (Falck Larsen)
06/12/17 Denmark 4:3 Sweden (Mojab, Hougaard, Jørgensen, Larsen; Legiec, Zhubi, Nashabat)
06/12/17 Finland 4:1 Greenland (Jyrkiäinen 2, Hosio, Istrefi; Berthelsen)
07/12/17 Norway 1:3 Finland (Blomberg; Hosio, Vanha, Jyrkiäinen)
07/12/17 Sweden 5:3 Greenland (Etéus, Delimedjac, Asp, Johnsson, Kadivar; Kreutzmann, Thorleifsen, Ezekiassen)
08/12/17 Denmark 2:2 Greenland (Mengel, Rasmussen; Fleischer, Hermann)
08/12/17 Norway 3:1 Sweden (Valla Dønnem, Ovesen, Wiseth; Etéus)
09/12/17 Finland 4:3 Denmark (Jukka Kytölä, Junno, Mikko Kytölä, Hosio; El-Ouz, Larsen, Rasmussen)
09/12/17 Norway 3:3 Greenland (Vie, Schjetne, Dønnem; Broberg, Berthelsen, Kreutzmann)




TEAM
P
W
D
L
GF
GA
PTS
GD
FINLAND
4
4
0
0
17
6
12
11
Denmark
4
2
1
1
10
9
7
1
Norway
4
1
1
2
7
8
4
-1
Sweden
4
1
0
3
10
16
3
-6
Greenland
4
0
2
2
9
14
2
-5



SQUAD-LISTS

DENMARK: 1 Christopher HAAGH (GK), 2 Louis VEIS, 3 Zakaria EL-OUZ, 4 Rasmus LUCHT, 5 Mike VESTERGAARD, 6 Rasmus JOHANSSON, 7 Mads FALCK LARSEN, 8 Morten BORUM LARSEN, 9 Jim BOTHMANN HOUGAARD, 10 Kevin JØRGENSEN, 11 Brian MENGEL THOMSEN, 12 Jannick MEHLSEN, 13 Magnus RASMUSSEN, 14 Amin BENMOUMOU, 15 Emil SCOTT, 16 Nils ANDERSEN (GK), 17 Jonas SKOVENGAARD, 18 Mohamed MOJAB, 19 Adam FOGT, 22 Christian HAABRECHT (GK)

FINLAND: 1 Juha-Matti SAVOLAINEN (GK), 2 Pano AUTIO, 3 Arber ISTREFI, 4 Petri GRÖNHOLM, 5 Juhana JYRKIÄINEN, 6 Jukka KYTÖLA, 7 Jarmo JUNNO, 8 Sergei KORSONOV, 10 Miika HOSIO, 11 Iiro VANHA, 12 Antti KOIVUMÄKI (GK), 13 Jani KORPELA, 14 Antti TEITTINEN, 15 Markus RAUTIAINEN, 16 Ville UIMANIEMI, 23 Marko LAAKSONEN (GK)

GREENLAND: 1 Malik MIKAELSEN (GK), 2 Morten FLEISCHER, 3 Kuluk EZEKIASSEN, 4 Niklas THORLEIFSEN, 5 Kaassannguaq ZEEB, 6 Markus JENSEN, 7 Frederik FUNCH, 9 John Ludvig BROBERG, 11 Ari HERMANN, 12 Malik HERMARIJK (GK), 13 Malik JUHL, 14 Søren KREUTZMANN, 15 Kunuuteeraq ISAKSEN, 16 Karsten ANDERSEN, 17 Hans Karl BERTHELSEN, 18 Philip HOLMENE, 20 Nukannguaq ZEEB, 21 Amos ROSBACH

NORWAY: 1 Kenneth RAKVAAG (GK), 2 Morten RAVLO, 3 Petter HØVIK, 4 Jonas SIMONSEN, 5 Jonas WISETH, 6 Andreas FOSSLI, 7 Eirik VALLA DØNNEM, 9 Mathias DAHL ABELSEN, 10 Ayoub BLOMBERG, 11 Even KVALVÆR, 12 Erland TANGVIK (GK), 13 Kim RUNE OVESEN, 14 Erlend TJØTTA VIE, 15 Jørgen VIK, 16 Lars RØSTTINGSNES, 17 Christopher MOEN, 18 Jonathan BARLOW, 20 Tobias SCHJETNE


SWEDEN: 1 Christopher SOLBERG (GK), 2 Nicklas ASP, 3 Fehim SMALJOVIC, 4 Emilio ROSSI, 5 Frederik JOHNSON, 6 Hector MARAVILLA, 7 Mathias ETÉUS, 8 Nima KADIVAR, 9 Kristian LEGIEC, 10 Petrit ZHUBI, 11 Simon CHEKROUN, 12 Markus GERD (GK), 13 Irfan DELIMEDJAC, 14 Jihad NASHABAT, 15 Ignatius MALKI, 16 Andreas TRANQUIST, 17 Mergim BERISHA, 18 Carl LEXT, 19 Anel CORALIC, 20 Dildar CALISKAN (GK)

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Lars Stensby from the NFF (Norwegian FA) for providing many of the statistics. The NFF's website, and those of the SFF (Swedish FA) and the Suomen Palloliitto (Finnish FA) were consulted, as was Sermitsiaq and Facebook.

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