Surviving the big Swiss scare
Looks like Finland have now won three of the latest four U19 WFC titles and three of the five latest men's. The most recent one in Växjö in early May 2017 was quite close to not happening, though.
Three goals down against Switzerland in the semi-final with just six minutes left to play, it did not look like Finland was anywhere near another title. Not even players like Justus Kainulainen, Joona Rantala or Heikki Iiskola who were expected to win games were able to break the furiously fighting red defence.
In my head, I was already sketching my commentary story about how it became Hamburg 2013 all over again. The time when stars like Peter Kotilainen, Nico Salo and Krister Savonen ended up less than the solid team play of Switzerland's U19. Again, our stars were not ready to win yet but look what Kotilainen, Salo and Savonen have accomplished since, I planned to add.
Then Joona Rantala scored a soft goal off a Swiss mistake reducing the score to 4-6 and we had a ball time again. In juniors' games especially, momentum and moods change fast and everything certain was always less certain than in men's matches. With a load of traumatic Swiss floorball past against Sweden and Finland, I could imagine a nasty thought nagging in the Swiss players' minds now.
It's happening again.
Of course, I could not read the players' minds but what happened definitely did not prove me wrong. The ball started pulling the red players like magnet and the fight seemed to become mindless running back and forth.
The It was far from over, though. With any of the balls sent by the Swiss to the direction of Finland's goal going in, Finland would not have become World champion. But they did not and Finland pulled abreast, cruelly clinching their victory in overtime. And Justus Kainulainen, Joona Rantala and Heikki Iiskola did step forward after all, scoring the crucial goals just when they were most needed.
Even in Finland, our team was considered favorites for the title before the tournament which does not happen often in the Swede-dominated sport. The squad was even more skilled than the one two years ago in Helsingborg, experts said. Yet they came this close to losing, thanks to yet another heroic battle by a Swiss floorball team.
With the gold medal hanging from his neck, Finland's head coach Heikki Luukkonen said the game against Switzerland was the finals step to the title. "After having come back from such a situation against the Swiss, there was no chance we could have been beaten by Sweden", he said.
Who wins future titles remains to be seen but at least Finnish floorball is working hard to be one of the top contenders. Alongside more and more top coaches educated, 550 potential top floorball players attend special sports gymnasiums where extra training is integrated into their school lessons making it possible to train in the mornings and eight to nine times a week in total.