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Finland – Azerb. 3-0
Yugoslavia – Finland 2-0

Sometimes you have to play against teams that have names that are too hard to be written correctly. It could be my kindergarten English as well. So I better use the words I know. Like “yes” and “wazuup?” Those two won’t make nice headlines though. Well, I am not writing headlines yet, usually my material is been used to fill dark corners of empty pages. Lately there could have been some headlines though linked to me. Like:
“Riihilahti won the game for Finland”. “Finnish football is flying high thanks to Riihilahti”. “Riihilahti is leading Finland to his nations first European Championship tournament”. These are the headlines I could have made. Instead I just got 5 in the local papers player’s ratings and a little mention in the side paragraph: “Riihilahti could have won the game for Finland but finished poorly”.

It was one of those moments that you could see happening beforehand. The ball from Litmanens free-kick was coming straight to me. I had worked hard to loose my marker and I was prepared to head the ball. It was inevitable that I would have a good chance to score here. The whole of the legendary Red Star Beograd’s stadium was silent; it was just me, the cross ball and the goal. This I had been practising thousands of times. This I knew I was good at.

I could see many small things and details like keeper moving left, my marker slipping, the woodwork of the goal, ball bending lightly… But still everything happens on a blink. In these situations you don’t have time to think, the decision comes automatically, straight from the spinal cord. I knew what I was going to do.

I was anxious. Come on Aki! Do it for the team! Do it for your country! Do it for yourself! I was sure I was going to score. I felt the moment. This was my claim to fame, a chance to give something back to my dear country. I jumped with both feet to get a better balance. I bent myself and made sure that the body was rightly lined with the ball and the goal. And I headed it well. I was ready to celebrate. But I couldn’t. The keeper could. It was a good save. But it was even better of a chance. That stadium heard couple of naughty Finnish words.

You score some, you miss some. You shouldn’t though. Because the best don’t. There are a fair bit of opportunities in the career of a footballer. The best ones take them regularly. I could have already won us two games in this qualification campaign. Putting my country in the top of the group. For a change and for a while being the hero and the top scorer. That hasn’t happened this time. I haven’t played badly either. However usually nobody remembers anything about the ninety minutes I or we have played, they only remember our missed chances and the score.

Actually I don’t care at all if I make the headlines, but I would have wanted my country to win. That is really everything that matters. How easily we could have now beaten Yugoslavia away and get our qualification campaign going! We dominated and had so many great chances. Far behind are those days when tiny Finland went to away games to just take some tourist pictures and try to loose as little as possible. However we were still unable to win, but this time we left lot of hope and ifs in the air.

Nowadays differences between the national teams are small and decided in small margins. In that respect football has changed. It is not that sure anymore that England will always win over Macedonia. Surprises are common. You play against these countries that you thought didn’t even exist and still they are able to find a dozen of handful players. So you better use your margins properly.

International game is very different from the English one. It is slower but more organised. It is more technical and less physical. Furthermore national team games are very different from the club football. In a way more suitable for a bit different type of a player than regular club football. It is a one sole event, with always a different set-up. You don’t meet the other players often. You don’t know exactly how they think and play. You might have to eat Yugoslavian traditional foods for pre-match meal. You need to keep your head calm to handle the different situations. You don’t have much time to make it work. And it has to work. That is why you got to take your chances.

I have gone over and over again some situations from my career, like the one couple of days ago in Beograd. They were not big mistakes, but they were good chances. I would love to get them back, to do something more or differently, but obviously that is just a dream. They are gone. And I know most of the players have been in the same situation, thinking and feeling the same. That is football, one second or a sole situation of the game is the only thing that shows on the scoreboard and makes everything to count. So I better go back to training ground and head the ball couple of times more. Because there will be more opportunities. Yes. Wazuup?

This time I recommend:
1. A.M. Engineer –plumbing service 02082651884
- They actually do care -
2. Evian –water
- Start of a healthy way of living -
3. Aurator –varainhoito
- Yksi parhaista asioista mitä talousrintamalla on tällä hetkellä tarjota -

I do not recommend:

1. Yugoslavian lasagne
- There are foods that look bad but taste good, this is not one of them -
2. Headmasters –barbers shop at Winbledon
- Unless you want to look like you are going to Army -
3. Home care services –plumbers 0800 0682282
- Don’t show up when promised, actually not at all. Just leaves you over a week-end with freezing apartment without even feeling sorry -

“ Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts –

Akinston Churchill

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