ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Finland coach Markku Kanerva said he was proud of finishing third in Euro 2020 Group B after a 2-0 defeat by Belgium on Monday left them facing a nervous wait to see if they can reach the last 16.
Belgium dominated the game but only found a breakthrough in the 74th minute courtesy of an own goal from keeper Lukas Hradecky, who fumbled a Thomas Vermaelen header over the line after it had crashed off the woodwork.
“Of course, it felt bad that they got the goal so close to the end,” Kanerva told reporters.
“But obviously they had other chances too, though we were a bit unlucky on that setback goal,” Kanerva added. “But on the other hand, Belgium was better, there’s no way around it.”
Finland defended resolutely but did not have a real chance of their own until after the hour mark when Glen Kamara fired straight at Thibaut Courtois.
“Of course, against an opponent of this calibre it is terribly hard to create those scoring opportunities,” Kanerva said. “But that is the next step we need to develop in terms of offensive play.”
Finland, who finished third in Group B with three points, must wait until the end of the group stage to see if their adventure in a first ever major tournament will continue.
“Our big dream was to make it through, and indeed there is still a small chance to do it. But it does feel a bit empty now,” Kanerva said.
“These are memorable games, and we will probably be able to appreciate them a bit later.”
He added that he was proud that Finland finished above Russia, with Denmark second on goal difference after the three teams all finished on three points.
“Big kudos to Denmark. I do believe they deserved the second place,” Kanerva said.
“The support from fans was quite fantastic, it felt like a home match. The players got tons of energy from it. This support has inspired and motivated us over the years.”
(Reporting by by Milla Nissi in Gdansk, editing by Ed Osmond)