Finland do Wales huge favour

Last updated : 07 June 2003 By Michael Morris
Finland's Sami Hyppia tackles Ryan Giggs of Wales during their Euro 2004 match
Wales will be delighted at Finland's win over Serbia-Montenegro
Wales moved a step closer to qualifying for the European Championship finals on Saturday without even playing.

Wales manager Mark Hughes was in Helsinki to see Finland beat Group Nine rivals Serbia-Montenegro 3-0.

Hughes' side - who are not in action this week - keep their five-point lead over Italy at the top of the table, and importantly stay seven points clear of the Serbs, who Wales still have to play twice.

They travel to face Dejan Savicevic's side on 20 August in Belgrade, with the return in Cardiff in the final group match on 11 October.

The 10 group winners all progress automatically to the finals in Portugal next June, while the 10 runners-up will take part in five play-off matches on a home-and-away basis in November, with the five winners also qualifying.

Should Finland take something from their game against Italy on Wednesday, also in Helsinki, and Serbia-Montenegro fail to win in Azerbaijan, Wales will be in a hugely strong position.

With nine points still to play for, Finland - now in third place on six points - still have plenty to play for themselves.

Liverpool skipper Sami Hyypia set the ball rolling for Finland with a powerful set-piece header after 19 minutes.

Serbia-Montenegro suffered a further blow soon after when Sinisa Mihajlovic was shown a straight red card for shoving Mikael Forssell to the ground in an off-the-ball incident.

The Lazio libero will definitely be banned from Serbia-Montenegro's next game in Azerbaijan.

But Mihajlovic could miss further matches depending on a disciplinary hearing, which would rule him out of the next game against Wales.

Joonas Kolkka struck just before half-time to double Finland's lead, with Chelsea striker Forssell adding the third midway through the second half.

New table

Group 9 PldPts
Serbia and M45