Portland Thorns FC’s Natalia Kuikka played 90 minutes in Finland’s dramatic UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifier against Portugal.
The first half had constant end-to-end action that rarely ended in actual scoring chances. Finland dominated possession and looked to force their possession-based game on Portugal. Portugal seemed content to absorb the pressure and then counter attack, led by Diana Silva and Claudia Neto.
Finland created a few half chances, but the first big chance of the game came from Portugal. Silva was released behind the Finland’s backline and was in on goal. The angle was tight and she was only able to find the side netting.
The Boreal Owls immediately responded with a chance of their own. The ball dropped to Sanni Franssi at the top of the 18-yard box and she fired over the bar.
Finland came out the stronger team in the second half. The Boreal Owls had a great chance to take the lead in the 55th minute when Franssi swung in a cross intended for Linda Sallstrom, who was unable to tap it in. Kuikka forced the keeper into an incredible save one minute later with a bullet-header.
Portugal subbed on Jessica Silva, who was an immediate thorn in the side of the Finnish defense.
With the last kick of the match Sallstrom lofted a shot over the keeper and into the back of the net to secure qualification to the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022.