Pukki allays ankle injury fears
- Credit: PA
Finland talisman Teemu Pukki insists he not struggling at the Euros with the ankle injury that curtailed his Norwich City season.
Pukki cut a disconsolate figure after being substituted for the second group game in a row in the midweek 1-0 defeat to Russia.
City's double Championship title winning frontman did admit he ran out of steam in the 1-0 opening win over Denmark after his club lay off, in a match completely overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s collapse.
The 31-year-old had only played 30 minutes in a pre-tournament friendly since damaging ankle ligaments in Norwich's title clinching 4-1 romp over Reading.
But Pukki is ready to answer his country’s call again in their daunting final group game against Belgium, with a place in the last 16 on the line.
Finland go into Monday’s match level on three points with Russia behind the unbeaten Belgians.
“The ankle is in good condition. We taped it, but it doesn't bother me at all,” he said. “My five-week break from football is quite visible.
"The match form is not the best. In the first match, I noticed that the break had not done me well. I had to ask to be substituted. The petrol ran out.
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“In the second match I had more energy and after the break it felt for the first time in the tournament as if I was really in the match. I had more ball and some chances, but then I was replaced.
"But it felt like I was closer to what I want to achieve and I hope that the chances are there if they come against Belgium.
“Of course we know that we are the underdog in every game. We are a challenger (in this tournament) and our main goal is to keep a clean sheet. We may have had to play a little too much defence, and it then becomes a problem when we have to get the team up in the attacking game.
"But it is something that must get better if we want to bring more results.”
Pukki was always confident he would make a landmark first appearance for his country at a major finals after reassurance from Finland's physio, Jari-Pekka Keurulainen.
"He saw the scans and promised that I would be fine for this race. It lifted my feelings back to the ceiling," he said. "Playing in the Euros has been the biggest dream of my career. If I missed it due to injury, it would have been annoying for a really long time.
"That first European Championship game, and atmosphere, for the first time in a year with spectators in the stadium, that was an indescribable feeling when the (Denmark) match started."
Pukki, quoted on Finland’s Swedish-language public broadcaster Svenska Yle, is not worried about the permutations required to qualify for the knock out stages against Roberto Martinez's star-studded squad.
“A completely flawless effort is needed, but it is possible,” he said. “I will prepare in the same way as usual. I don’t stress unnecessarily. Then I get the most out of my game.
“A draw could be good enough, but now we focus on the match. We can count points afterwards and then we see what the situation looks like.
"Of course the stakes are high. Who would have thought we had a chance to qualify in the final game? We know that winning against Belgium requires a perfect performance, but it is possible.”