Two events in the last few days have increased Lassi Lappalainen’s chances of participation at his country’s first-ever tournament finals.
He underlined his return to fitness, Saturday, making his first appearance since last October and then just this morning, UEFA announced that teams are allowed to select a 26-man squad instead of the usual 23.
It’s conceivable that Lappalainen would have been in the squad even at the more conventional 23 before the shoulder injury sustained in Columbus which ruled him out of action for six months, but he’s now in the position of having to prove form and fitness to catch the eye of coach Markku Kanerva.
The squads being extended to 26 increase his chances immensely.
The Finnish coach covets player versatility as an important ingredient in a limited squad, but Lappalainen’s inclusion is dependent on Kanerva identifying he can provide a different option.
“Versatility is a good word. Players adapted to different groups are valuable players,” said Kanerva.
Before the injury Lappalainen was a regular name in successive Finland squads, but he’s not been included since a 3-0 win over Armenia in October 2019. Some of that was due to implications of Covid and not travelling for friendly or Nations League matches.
Lassi has seven Finnish caps, no goals just yet, and in the tournament’s group stages would face Denmark in Copenhagen, 12 June, Russia in St-Petersburg, 16 June and Belgium also in St-Petersburg on 21 June.
Kanerva must finalize his squad by the end of this month.
Should Lappalainen make it, he would certainly not be available for Montreal’s late June game with Inter-Miami, but could be back in the fold for the game v Nashville on June 26. That’s if Finland does not cause a surprise and progress to the round of 16.
The Euros tournament begins during the three-week break in MLS at the end of May.
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