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06-09-2007, 05:59 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Vantaa
Country: Finland
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I haven't updated my Finnish list for quite a while, but then again there aren't many Finnish success stories to write about, either. Right now there are two players that stand out and then a bunch of lesser, younger, less proven or less known prospects.

Graduated/ineligible Finnish prospects:

1st Alexei Eremenko Jr, 1983, Lecce --> FC Saturn
2nd Niklas Moisander, 1985, Ajax --> FC Zwolle
5th Tim Sparv, 1987, Southampton --> Halmstads BK
8th Pekka Lagerblom, 1982, Werder Bremen --> FC Köln

1. Roman Eremenko
Born: 19.3.1987 -- Position: M/AM C -- Nationality: Finland/Russia -- Height: 180 cm -- Team: AC Siena (on loan from Udinese)

Eremenko has already played a year in Serie A, but I decided to include him since the Finns follow his progress more than anyone else. He was loaned to Siena at the end of January to get more playing time and appeared in 11 Serie A games for them, usually starting on the bench. His 30-minute performance against Catania warranted a place in’s Serie A team of the week and he also played a full game against Inter, who happened to clinch the title that same day. He made his national team debut on June 6th against Belgium.

As a player Roman is quite unique in Finnish football. He is a playmaker who reads the game exceptionally well, makes quick (not hasty!) decisions and has a good enough technique to protect the ball and create chances for his teammates, but unlike Jari Litmanen who possesses similar abilities he is also active defensively. Roman positions himself well, always tries to make himself available for the pass and is willing to play physical if given the chance.

Eremenko only appears to have two major weaknesses for an attacking-minded central midfielder: he isn’t much of a goalscorer and like his older brother he’s fairly slow on foot. His attitude on the other hand seems to be fine, except for the occasional emotional outburst and the annoying habit to dive. It’s quite possible that Eremenko will thrive in a deeper role than Litmanen ever has, perhaps in a role similar to players like Pirlo and Fabregas.

2. Perparim Hetemaj
Born: 12.12.1986 -- Position: M RLC -- Nationality: Finland/Serbia -- Height: 176 cm -- Team: AEK Athens

Hetemaj was born in Kosovo, but his family was forced to move to Finland in 1992. He received a Finnish passport in 2004, played a season and a half for HJK Helsinki and was then transferred to AEK in the summer of 2006. He was an instant success, collecting an assist in his Champions League debut, but spent the rest of the season bouncing back and forth between the subs bench and the starting lineup until breaking his ankle in February when he was tackled late.

While nowhere near a complete player, Hetemaj is a surprisingly versatile midfielder with a good touch of flair. His technique, speed and dribbling ability are all outstanding and yet nearly matched by his work rate, which makes him able to play both on wings and in the heart of midfield. Perparim also has a bit of an eye for playmaking, although he is a far cry from Roman Eremenko in that department. He loves to challenge defenders and won’t back down from an opponent’s challenge, either.

Hetemaj is still quite raw, however. His poor positioning ability and selfishness with the ball in particular leave much to be desired and he could also use better overall decision-making skills and some extra muscle on his relatively small frame. And - *sigh* - much like the Eremenko brothers he tends to dive too often.

If all goes well, Hetemaj should soon make his national team debut, preferably on the right wing where he wouldn’t really have any kind of competition whatsoever. But first he has to get back in shape from the anke injury.

Also keep an eye on:

Joona Toivio
Born: 10.3.1988 -- Position: DC/DMC -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 186 cm -- Team: AZ Alkmaar

Elegant player and dominant in his age group, but has yet to get any decent playing time in the top leagues of Finland and Holland.

Veli Lampi
Born: 18.7.1984 -- Position: DR -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 182 cm -- Team: FC Zürich

Swiss champion and currently subs bench material for Finland.

Markus Halsti
Born: 19.3.1984 -- Position: DC -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 185 cm -- Team: HJK

Elegant but inconsistent and injury prone centre back, who has been a star in the Veikkausliiga since 2005. Injuries and HJK’s transfer demands have kept him in Finland for now. I like the man’s playing style, but he definitely needs to get rid of some brain cramps if he is to replace Sami Hyypiä in the future.

Ari Nyman
Born: 7.2.1984 -- Position: DC/DMC/DR -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 185 cm -- Team: FC Thun

An early bloomer in the Veikkausliiga and technically still ahead of both Halsti and Lampi in the minds of the national team coaches, but I’ve just never been impressed by him. An allround defensive player who currently plays midfield for FC Thun and occasionally right back for the Finnish national team.

Kasper Hämäläinen
Born: 8.8.1986 -- Position: M RLC -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 184 cm -- Team: TPS

A promising box-to-box midfielder also capable of playing on the wings, whose previous seasons have been more or less ruined by injuries. This time around Hämäläinen has been healthy and 2007 is expected to finally be his breakthrough season.

Eero Korte
Born: 20.9.1987 -- Position: MC -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 179 cm -- Team: FC Lahti

Skillful player with a good balance. Can also play centre back if needed.

Aleksei Kangaskolkka
Born: 29.10.1988 -- Position: SC -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 184 cm -- Team: MyPa

Straightforward striker who had a breakthrough season in 2006 and was MyPa’s top scorer with 6 goals in 22 games. Spartak Moscow showed some interest, but Kangaskolkka decided to stay in Finland.

Valeri Minkenen
Born: 9.4.1989 -- Position: MC -- Nationality: Finland -- Height: 184 cm -- Team: AC Oulu

Versatile player who has played in defense, midfield and attack. Joined AC Oulu this season and has been a first team regular so far.

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