Following an earlier, epic, encounter between these two plucky teams, Adolf Hitler commented: 'We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.' He had noted the parlous performance of the Red Army during the initial stages of the 1939 Winter War and thus convinced himself that invading the USSR would be a doddle.
We have those Finns to thank, then, sort of, for the Allies' eventual victory. Famously, they routed the Red Army because they had the sense to wear white gear in the snow, while the commies wore green. It was a game of two halves, mind, and the Ruskies won in the end.
They won in St Petersburg, too — probably deservedly, a point the caterwauling female BBC commentator also conceded. A packed stadium (the further east you go in Europe, the less they care about Covid) instilled in the Russians a sense of purpose after a very shaky start.
Two teams with extremely suspect defences. Two teams with goal-shy attackers. But both well-disciplined and, uh, rugged. The Finns lost to a nasty deflection. Russia started with Artem Dzyuba up front, recently restored to the team after being dropped for having allegedly filmed himself masturbating, a point not discussed during the TV coverage. I daresay the joyous Artem will do a little monkey-spanking this evening, but hopefully not for the cameras.
This group is looking interesting, with Russia, Belgium and Finland all on three points and poor Denmark, with their stricken player, on zero. My guess is that Russia and Belgium go through and maybe Finland as best also rans. At the very least they should be given the rest of Karelia back.
Man of the Match: Aleksai Marunchuk
Players with typically Russian and Finnish names: Mario Fernandes (Russia), Daniel O’Shaughnessy (Finland)