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Impact’s Raitala Starts for Finland

Raitala wins 47th cap, Lappalainen not in squad.

Jukka Raitala (left) in action for Finland against Greece during last month’s 1-0 victory for the Finns.
Photo credit should read MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images

Jukka Raitala takes his place on the right side of defence for Finland’s crucial European Championship qualifier against Bosnia Herzegovina, which kicks off in less than an hour (1200 EST). Lassi Lappalainen is not in the 23-man squad.

The Finns can take a giant step towards automatic finals qualification for the first time in their long history with a win, although returning from Zenica undefeated would still be considered a great result and keep qualification hopes well on track.

For Bosnia, it’s simply win or bust. Already sitting 5 points behind Finland in second spot, with four games to play, even a point will not help much. They’ve defeated only Liechtenstein in their last five internationals, however remain unbeaten at home in the last six.

They will not be helped today by the absence of striker, captain and top scorer, Edin Dzeko, and former Canadian u20 team goalkeeper, Amir Begovic, currently on loan at Azerbaijani club Qarabag. Both are unfit

The Finns have been mean in defence so far, conceding only 4 times, all to Italy, and will be hoping for more quality rearguard action today with perhaps another goal from on-form Norwich City striker, Teemu Pukki.

Finland have earned themselves some breathing space in the group, so even if things don’t go as planned this afternoon, they have another opportunity to consolidate second spot, when they host Armenia on Tuesday. By then Armenia, who play Liechtenstein tonight, could be level on points with Finland.

Finland and Bosnia have met only twice previously, with one win apiece, Finland’s victory coming earlier in the group, a 2-0 win in Tampere in June.