Finland record relief for City star as Litmanen sends message
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki admitted there was an element of relief to breaking Jari Litmanen’s goal-scoring record for Finland.
The 31-year-old had been within two goals of the former Ajax and Barcelona forward’s previous record of 32 goals since March but went seven international games without a goal.
That was partly due to the ankle injury suffered as City sealed the Championship title, which created a race against time to be fit for the European Championship.
Pukki’s goals had been pivotal to the Finns qualifying for that first major international tournament in their history and he made it back in time but it proved a disappointing experience personally and as a team.
He has claimed the record for himself in the past week though, with a goal in a 2-1 home defeat to Ukraine and both goals during a 2-0 win in Kazakhstan on Tuesday which has kept hopes of World Cup qualification alive.
“It’s great that it’s happened now,” Pukki told YLE. “If it has been somewhere in the back of my head, then now I can play with a little more freedom.”
Litmanen’s 32 goals came from 137 matches between 1989 and 2010, meaning the former Liverpool player still holds the appearance record.
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Pukki scored number 33 during his 98th international game, with just four players having played more games for Finland, including ex-Canaries loan striker Jonatan Johansson.
Litmanen sent a message via a betting firm after the game, telling Unibet: “Big congratulations to Teemu Pukki on his achievement.
“He deserves a completely new goal record. His goals have been achieved so fast in recent years.”
Since joining Norwich on a free transfer from Brondby in 2018, Pukki has scored 21 goals in 34 games for his nation and an impressive total haul of 90 goals in 168 matches for club and country – winning two Championship titles and Championship Player of the Season and Premier League Player of the Month awards along the way.
It hasn’t always been as profitable though, such as the miserable 2016 when the Finns lost nine and drew two of their 11 matches, with Pukki only scoring once.
“It was a difficult year,” Pukki continued, referring to 2016. “But the year of the European Championship qualifiers, or really the last three to four years, has been really good.
“We've had a great team throughout my national team career, it's always been great to come here.”
The goal which equalled the record came from a lovely turn and flick past but the Kazakh keeper’s mistake gave Pukki an easy finish for the record – although he didn’t celebrate too heartily for fear of offside.
That came later, as his team-mates threw him in the air in congratulations, but the Helsinki brace which sealed qualification for the Euros in November 2019 remains a difficult memory to beat.
“Of course, the two goals against Liechtenstein that finally brought qualification,” Pukki said of his best moment. “Then this last one, which went number one in the statistics, was just nice.
“I wasn’t sure if it was offside, so I couldn’t properly celebrate.”