FINLAND has broken out into a Pukki Party after victory over Liechenstein saw them qualify for the finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history.
After years of near misses and heartbreak, the Finns sealed a place at Euro 2020 with an emphatic win in Helsinki which sparked a mass pitch invasion and parties across the country.
Norwich striker Teemu Pukki – already a big name in Finald – secured his place as a national hero with two of the goals as they ran out 3-0 winners.
The victory was enough for them to make certain of second sport in Group J, which is topped by runaway leaders Italy, and some players were close to tears as the emotions took hold.
So many wanted to watch the game that tickets were sold out weeks ago and cities across the country decided to erect big screens in town centres to satisfy demand.
The Finns tore into the visitors from the first whistle, desperate to make a quick start and not get bogged down in a stalemate the would start to cause worries,
Liechtenstein held out until the 21st minute, when Jasse Tuominen siezed on a loose ball to slot home and lift the tension around the ground.
Pukki almost added a second seven minutes before the break but he saw his fierce drive turned away by the keeper.
Tuominen was the next go go close with a header which came back off the post and Finland were unable to find the second that would calm their nerves.
But Pukki sent the fans wild when he finally doubled the lead from the spot on 64 minutes having been hacked down in the area.
And he crowned a superb individual performance with his second goal 11 minutes later, collecting a ball over the top and rounding the keeper. Though defender Andreas Malin blocked his initial shot, Pukki stabbed home the rebound.
By the time he was substituted on 84 minutes the job was done and he was able to claim a hero’s ovation.
Pukki said: “There are no words. I’ve never been as nervous before a match as I was for this one today.”
Coach Markku Kanerva added: “A fantastic effort by the players. I am so unbelievably proud, it has been an incredible journey that means such an awful lot to the Finnish people.”