SPORTS

Finland waltzes past Greece

HELSINKI (AP) – Mikael Forssell scored twice in the first half as Finland beat Greece 5-1 yesterday in a Group 9 qualifier for the 2002 World Cup, in what was also German coach Otto Rehhagel’s debut with Greece. Midfielders Aki Riihilahti and Joonas Kolkka also scored for Finland while Giorgios Karagounis netted a long-range shot that gave Greece some hope. Jari Litmanen scored the final goal for Finland, converting from the penalty spot eight minutes into the second half after being felled by Andreas Zikos. Neither team had a chance to qualify for the World Cup finals, with Germany and England leading the group. The teams played for favorable seedings in future competitions. Finland secured at least third place with 11 points while Greece has six, each with one game remaining. Finland’s midfield, with Liverpool’s Litmanen, Riihilahti of Crystal Palace, and hard-working Teemu Tainio – a starter at French top team Auxerre – repeatedly sent lateral midfielders Mika Nurmela of Dutch club Heerenveen and Kolkka of Panathinaikos flying along the wings. After 14 minutes, Forssell was played through on the left by Tainio and scored from an acute angle. Riihilahti powered in a header for a 2-0 lead in the 21st minute from a center by Nurmela. Greece then put one player forward to aid lone striker Nikos Machlas, who tried to offset Finland’s defense with one-touch play and used left back Grigoris Georgatos to swing in crosses. Georgatos also rolled the ball to Panathinaikos player Karagounis, who hit a hard, well placed low shot from 30 meters for Greece’s goal in the 30th minute. In the 38th minute, left back Janne Saarinen found Kolkka with a perfectly-timed pass on the left, and the swift Finn scored with an explosive shot from an angle. Nurmela crossed to Kolkka in the 44th minute, and Kolkka put the ball in front of the goal where Forssell scored on his second try from close in to make it 4-1.