The UK and Ireland's joint bid to host Euro 2028 has been submitted to UEFA, with 14 venues under consideration to host games at the tournament.

Football associations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland lodged an expression of interest in hosting the event in March, pledging to organise an "unrivalled" tournament.

Turkey, Italy and Russia have all previously professed their willingness to host the European Championships in either 2028 or 2032, with the latter of the trio doing so despite being banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Should the joint United Kingdom and Ireland bid triumph, games could be staged at nine stadiums in England, two in the Republic of Ireland, and one in each of the other three countries involved.

A joint statement from the five nations' football associations read: "The UK and Ireland bid to host UEFA Euro 2028 has today submitted our preliminary bid dossier – a key moment in UEFA's campaign process.

"The bid sets out our clear and compelling vision for UEFA Euro 2028: 'Football for all. Football for good. Football for the future'.

"Key to this vision is a commitment to diversity, social purpose and innovation in delivering an outstanding UEFA Euro 2028 that will create unforgettable memories in sold-out, iconic stadia in famous football cities known throughout the world.

"The UK and Ireland's track record of hosting successful major sporting events over many decades means we have the expertise and experience to take this world-class tournament to new heights.

"Our stadia concept includes a proposed shortlist of 14 venues in famous sporting cities known throughout the world, including destinations that are home to clubs with great European football history and heritage. 

"The plan ensures that all our proposed cities and stadia are connected by direct, quick and sustainable travel links and accommodation that will provide an unrivalled experience for teams and fans."

Villa Park, the London Stadium, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Wembley Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, St James' Park, the Stadium of Light, Old Trafford and Everton's planned new home are the nine English venues proposed by the associations.

They are joined on the shortlist by Croke Park, the AVIVA Stadium, Casement Park, Hampden Park and the Millennium Stadium.

The UK and Ireland initially explored the possibility of bidding to host the 2030 World Cup before switching focus in an effort to secure the UEFA competition.

South American football confederation CONMEBOL has backed FIFA and called for participating nations to "leave controversies behind" ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

The decision to stage the World Cup in Qatar has attracted renewed criticism on the eve of the tournament, with critics focusing on the host country's criminalisation of same-sex relationships and the conditions faced by migrant workers.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura recently wrote to all 32 nations participating in Qatar, requesting they "focus on the football".

That letter led Amnesty International to accuse organisers of brushing human rights concerns "under the carpet", while a UEFA working group of 10 European nations responded by stressing the need to "support human rights".

CONMEBOL issued a statement of its own on Monday, outlining a belief in the need for "unity in support" of the tournament. 

"CONMEBOL and its 10 member associations join the call for world football unity in support of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022," the statement began.

"A country eager to show its hospitality and warmth, magnificent sports venues and 32 prepared teams with their greatest potential, ensure a tournament that will undoubtedly go down in history.

"As few times in history, human society today needs the powerful message of sport in general and football, the most popular of them, in particular. 

"This message is powerful because it is universal, it goes far beyond political or ideological disputes, temporary disagreements and occasional confrontations. It is a message full of optimism, tolerance, inclusion, diversity, union.

"The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is the best opportunity to consolidate the values on which football is founded.

"This is especially so in the new generations, in girls, boys and young people, who hope and seek that football is not tarnished or distorted with biased or partial visions.

"The time has come to leave controversies behind and value and enjoy a true all-embracing party, eagerly awaited by the entire planet."

A UEFA working group made up of 10 European nations has stressed the need to "support human rights" at the Qatar World Cup.

The decision to stage the World Cup in Qatar has been widely criticised due to concerns over the country's human rights record, with the conditions of migrant workers and the criminalisation of homosexuality being highlighted.

Amnesty International later accused FIFA of brushing these concerns "under the carpet" after president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura called on participating nations to "focus on the football" at the World Cup.

In a statement released on Sunday, the working group acknowledged what it perceives to be "significant progress" made by Qatar, though also insisted human rights issues cannot be ignored.

"We acknowledge, and welcome, as we have done in the past, that significant progress has been made by Qatar, particularly with regards to the rights of migrant workers, with the impact of legislative changes demonstrated in the International Labour Organisation's recent reports," the statement read.

"We welcome the assurances given by the Qatari Government and by FIFA regarding the safety, security and inclusion of all fans who travel to the World Cup, including LGBTQ+ fans.

"We also recognise that every country has issues and challenges and we agree with FIFA that diversity is a strength.

"However, embracing diversity and tolerance also means supporting human rights. Human rights are universal and they apply everywhere."

The group, made up of the football associations of England, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal and Belgium, also detailed the talks it has had with FIFA on the matters.

"We will continue to support the momentum for positive, progressive change and continue to advocate for a conclusive outcome and update on the two key outstanding issues we have been discussing with FIFA for a long time," the statement continued.

"FIFA has repeatedly committed to deliver concrete answers on these issues - the compensation fund for migrant workers, and the concept of a migrant workers centre to be created in Doha - and we will continue to press for these to be delivered.

"We believe in the power of football to make further positive and credible contributions to progressive sustainable change in the world."

The tournament gets underway on November 20 when the hosts take on Ecuador.

European champions England will face off against Copa America Femenina champions Brazil at Wembley in the inaugural Women's Finalissima next year.

The clash on April 6 has been organised between UEFA and CONMEBOL to follow on from the success of the men's Finalissima in June, where South American champions Argentina defeated European title-holders Italy in front of a sold-out crowd at Wembley.

A cross-continent fixture has also taken place at youth level, with UEFA Youth League winners Benfica overcoming Uruguay's Club Atletico Penarol at the Estadio Centenario in August in Montevideo.

The clash will give both England and Brazil the opportunity to clinch a further title before the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, leading Three Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman to outline her excitement for the fixture.

"The great games keep on coming for us. This time, we have the opportunity to welcome Brazil to Wembley and it will be another big moment after the Euros and USA match," she said.

"Like us, they will be thinking about the World Cup next summer. This is a chance to again test ourselves against another top 10 team in the world, an opportunity to win another trophy and give our fans something special to watch, hopefully in a packed-out Wembley."

England's Euro success was only the second senior title they have ever lifted, while Brazil's triumph against Colombia in the Copa America was their fourth in a row and eighth in the nine editions of the tournament.

Switzerland's attorney general has launched an appeal against the acquittals of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the former presidents of FIFA and UEFA respectively.

Blatter and Platini were cleared of all charges against them following a trial at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, with that outcome being announced in July.

They had been charged with fraud and other offences by Swiss authorities relating to a payment of 2million Swiss francs made by Blatter to Platini in 2011.

For Blatter, there were charges of fraud, misappropriation, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document. Platini had been charged with fraud, participating in misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document.

Both men had denied any wrongdoing and the court found in their favour.

However, the matter is not yet over, as prosecutors are challenging the court's ruling.

In a statement, the Office of the Attorney General announced it had requested for the judgement to be overturned.

It said: "We confirm that the Office of the Attorney General has appealed to the Appeals Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court within the statutory period and has applied for the full annulment of the first-instance judgement."

The statement continued: "No further information is given on the content of the declaration of appeal. The presumption of innocence applies to all those involved in the proceedings."

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi labelled Barcelona's methods of raising funds unfair and suggested UEFA will investigate the Blaugrana's financial conduct.

Despite facing mounting debt levels and struggling to meet LaLiga's strict salary limits, Barca completed big-money moves for Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha – as well as signing several free agents – during the recent transfer window.

Barca sold 25 per cent of their future LaLiga media rights, as well as a 49 per cent share of their in-house production company Barca Studios, to raise funds for their transfer activity.

President Joan Laporta referred to those measures as economic "levers" that were activated to improve the squad, but Al-Khelaifi has cast doubt upon their legality. 

"Is this fair? No, it's not fair," he told Politico. "Is it legal? I'm not sure.
 
"If they allow them, others will do the same. UEFA of course have their own [financial] regulations. For sure they're going to look at everything."

Al-Khelaifi, who is also a UEFA executive committee member and serves as chairman of the European Club Association, has been critical of Barcelona on several occasions recently.

Last week, he appeared to reference the Catalan giants during a speech to European club representatives, saying: "The new financial sustainability rules are a positive development. 

"But we need to be careful. Dangerous levels of debt and magical equity deals are not a sustainable path."

Al-Khelaifi has also been embroiled in a war of words with LaLiga, with the Spanish league filing a complaint over PSG's spending following Kylian Mbappe's decision to reject a move to Real Madrid earlier this year.

The PSG president has also repeatedly criticised Barca and Madrid for their failure to abandon the European Super League project, declaring; "the ecosystem of football is bigger than just two or three clubs", earlier this month.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the organisation will not repeat a pan-continental staging of the European Championship following Euro 2020, but has not ruled out further successful joint bids in the future.

Last year's rescheduled tournament, intended to celebrate its 60th anniversary, was beset by logistical difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2024 tournament will revert to a single nation host in Germany, but the 2028 edition could once again see multiple hosts, with a British Isles bid up against Turkey for duties.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ceferin confirmed there will be no continent-spanning events in future, but he is not opposed to shared hosting between smaller neighbour nations.

"We are not considering such Euro tournaments in 10-11 countries, that was complicated enough," he stated. "With [the pandemic], it was even more complicated.

"With respect to sporting considerations, Switzerland played one game in Rome and then in Baku, and some teams played at home all the time.

"Those who did not travel and played at home ended up in the final. We don't like that concept at all.

"It was a good idea. It was the 60th anniversary of the Euros, some Pan-European friendship... These were the elements of that idea.

"I'm not saying that the idea was bad. But my feeling is that Euros should take place in one or two countries if we're talking about smaller countries."

UEFA has confirmed Russia will not be included in next month's qualifying draw for the 2024 European Championship.

Russia has been exiled by FIFA and UEFA following February's invasion of Ukraine, with the country's national teams and clubs banned from competing in any continental or international competitions.

UEFA confirmed ahead of the 2022-23 season that Russian clubs would be excluded from competing in their tournaments this season, although Euro 2024 was not mentioned in the previous update.

However, while confirming the procedure for the qualifying draw that will take place on October 9, UEFA has now confirmed Russia will not be among the 53 teams drawn.

"All Russian teams are currently suspended following the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee of February 28, 2022 which has further been confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on July 15, 2022. Russia is therefore not included in the UEFA European Football Championship 2022-24 qualifying draw," a statement read.

Germany, hosts of Euro 2024 and automatic qualifiers, will also not be in next month's draw, which will produce seven groups of five teams and three groups of six teams.

The 53 participating teams are seeded according to the overall 2022-23 Nations League rankings and divided into seven pots, with the 10 group winners and runners-up qualifying for the tournament.

Playoffs will decide the final three qualification spots for Euro 2024, which is scheduled to begin on June 14, 2024.

A senior German official has written to UEFA to request both Russia and Belarus are excluded from next month's qualifying draw for Euro 2024.

Following February's invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA issued a joint statement to confirm that Russia and Belarus, who are supporters of Vladimir Putin's regime, will be banned from competitions "until further notice".

That was followed up an update in May, where UEFA announced Russian clubs would be banned from continental competitions for the 2022-23 season, with Russia also excluded from the Women's Euros.

However, the European Championships in 2024, due to be held in Germany, were not mentioned in UEFA's most recent update.

That has led German federal minister of the interior Nancy Faeser, who oversees sport in her role, to write to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin to call for both nations to be excluded from the qualifying draw, due to take place on October 9. UEFA did not comment on the matter but did confirm receipt of the letter.

German publication Der Spiegel carries reported quotes from the letter, which they say states: "Not only Russia, which is waging a war of aggression in violation of international law, but also Belarus as an essential supporter of the Russian leadership should be excluded from all international football matches and tournaments."

Faeser adds UEFA should include "the suspension of Russian and Belarusian officials from the influential bodies of international sports federations", as football must "live up to its responsible role and show a united stance against this form of disregard for human rights".

"All those responsible must be deprived of any possibility of sporting participation, influence or other representation."

The letter follows on from requests from Ukrainian Association of Football president Andriy Pavelko, who also requested Russia be excluded from next month's draw.

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Nice and Koln after crowd trouble marred a Europa Conference League match between the teams.

Thursday's group game on the French Riviera saw a delayed kick-off due to fans clashing in the stands and missiles being thrown.

Reports also cited trouble around the city prior to the match, with vandalism and damage to the French team's official club shop.

A number of fans were injured, and European football's governing body confirmed the start of disciplinary proceedings.

In a statement, UEFA said: "Disciplinary proceedings have been instigated in accordance with article 55 of the UEFA disciplinary regulations following the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage match between OGC Nice and 1. FC Koln (1-1) played on 8 September 2022 in France."

Both clubs have been charged regarding the 'throwing of objects', 'lighting of fireworks' and 'crowd disturbances', with Nice also facing five further charges relating to their hosting of the game.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere said on Friday: "We've had enough of this. When you experience it live, it's terrible. When the next day you experience it a second time with hindsight, it's even worse because we have terrible images. It can't go on.

"I'm not in the habit of leaving a ship when things are rocking. But when you see that, you inevitably say to yourself: 'What am I doing here?'."

A number of Paris Saint-Germain supporters were identified as being among those involved in fighting.

French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera expressed a fear for the safety of the ordinary supporter, looking to avoid trouble at all costs but still coming face to face with hooliganism.

She said, quoted by RMC: "We are fed up, we are really fed up that our sport is soiled in this way, that we can no longer tell ourselves that we are going with our kids in a serene and safe way to a stadium.

"I have a knot in my stomach because it's starting again, Nice-Koln, with incredible violence, shocking images on social networks. We really have to find the solutions together to get through this, to ensure that this violence which is penetrating more and more into our society stops at least at the door of our stadiums."

Koln said they would work closely with police to identify perpetrators.

Managing director Christian Keller said: "We are all very upset about what happened. That has nothing to do with football and counteracts the values ​​of FC Koln.

"With both clubs, it was a small minority of less than 100 people each that caused the excess violence in the stadium. Over 7,900 of the 8,000 spectators in the Koln block have nothing to do with the incidents. A blanket condemnation of our fans and in particular the active fan scene is therefore wrong."

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has paid tribute to HRH Queen Elizabeth II following her death aged 96, with a minute's silence held across the body's competition matches on Thursday.

Britain's longest-reigning monarch passed away at her home in Balmoral, just months on from her Platinum Jubilee.

News broke amid Arsenal's early Europa League kick-off against Zurich, with the Gunners returning to the field for the second half in black armbands and a minute's silence held before play resumed.

Manchester United and West Ham's subsequent European commitments were prefaced by a minute of silence and tributes to the Queen too, and Ceferin offered his condolences.

"UEFA and European football are truly saddened by the passing away of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, one of the world's most-respected figures," he stated.

"Our thoughts are with her family and the President of the English Football Association Prince William, as well as with the citizens of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms."

FIFA and UEFA have issued a joint statement condemning a "horrific act" that saw gunshots fired at the Turkish Football Association headquarters on Thursday.

Reports from Turkey indicate 11 shots were fired in the direction of the building in Istanbul as the board met inside, though fortunately nobody was hurt.

Turkish Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, said two suspects were arrested shortly after the incident occurred, describing them as "drunk", with investigations ongoing.

Football governing bodies FIFA and UEFA condemned the indicent, expressing relief that no injuries were sustained.

"On Thursday, a horrific act of gun violence against the people and property of the Turkish Football Association (TFF) occurred at the TFF's headquarters in Istanbul," the statement read.

"As much as we are relieved that these acts resulted in no injuries, we regret that there are still people capable of such crimes with no respect for human life or safety.

"FIFA and UEFA jointly condemn this violent act and express our full support for the TFF and its staff at this difficult time. Violence is a disease that cannot be tolerated in any form."

Former Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Turkey international Hamit Altintop, now one of the federation's leaders, was in the building at the time of the incident.

"We threw ourselves to the ground as soon as we heard the shots," he told the Milliyet daily.

Women's club football in Europe is at "a critical juncture" but can soar to stunning new heights over the next decade, a new report from UEFA has disclosed.

Its commercial value can grow sixfold to €686million by 2033 and club sponsorship could swell to €295million by the same point, according to European football's governing body.

The developing professional leagues across Europe remain at an early stage of growth, emphasised by the fact spending on international player transfers topped €2m for the first time last year.

UEFA published its 'Business Case for Women’s Football' on Tuesday, with the women's game planning to capitalise on the success of international tournaments such as Euro 2022 by aiming to steer supporters and investors towards the clubs and leagues that in some cases are battling to survive.

The report said stakeholders have "an extraordinary opportunity to develop and professionalise women's football in Europe over the next decade by investing now" to unlock "enormous potential".

The report's findings would enable stakeholders "to make informed decisions and invest on the scale required", its authors said.

UEFA explained that previous data in this area, looking at the prospect for future growth, meant there was an "inconsistent and incomplete" picture of what the years to come might hold. It said its research and data investigations this time were "unprecedented" in their scale.

Former Germany striker Nadine Kessler, who is now UEFA's chief of women's football, hailed the game as being "on an incredibly exciting trajectory".

Kessler added: "The potential of the women's game is limitless and we believe we are on course to take women's football to heights that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

"As this report shows, now is the time to capitalise on the momentum we have created together, now is the time to get involved, now is the time to invest."

The research showed that a current fan base of 144million could reach 328million in 10 years' time. Followers were described as being broadly "diverse, progressive and young", with close to one in three fans of the women's game found to be new to football.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas pointed to the prospect of short-term losses for long-term gains.

Aulas, an early advocate of the women's game, said: "In the early years, there will be losses to reach a certain level and become successful. Over time, the investment will create excellent value for the club through new partners and a differentiated fan base."

That was reflected in the report stating the "majority" of leagues and teams are making a loss, relying on support from club owners or men's team budgets to remain sustainable.

Some 87 per cent of integrated clubs said involvement with women's clubs had brought about a reputational boost.

UEFA said its research showed 70 per cent of women's clubs and 50 per cent of leagues are aiming to be self-sustainable within the next decade.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson hopes the unsavoury off-field scenes that marred last season's Champions League final in Paris will represent a "watershed" moment in the treatment of football fans.

Henderson started as Liverpool fell to a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid at the Stade de France in May, a loss that ended their hopes of adding to an EFL Cup and FA Cup double.

However, the match was overshadowed by violent scenes as supporters were targeted with pepper spray and tear gas outside the stadium, leading both clubs to call for an investigation.

While authorities originally blamed English fans' use of fake tickets for the disruption, both interior minister Gerald Darmanin and Paris police chief Didier Lallement have since apologised for those claims.

UEFA announced the commissioning of an independent investigation into the causes of the security failings just one day after the match, and Henderson believes steps must be taken to ensure a repeat never occurs.

"I always go into the new season not wanting to dwell too much on whatever happened in the previous one – for better or worse – but there is one element that I do want to look back on and that is the treatment of our fans in Paris," he wrote in his programme notes ahead of Liverpool's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

"I know there is an inquiry going on at the minute, so I don't want to say too much at this stage, but there is a basic principle that needs to be agreed on by all involved in football and that is that football supporters should always be taken care of.

"That is absolutely non-negotiable. Safety and security shouldn't be asked for or campaigned for, they should be a given and in Paris this was not the case. 

"All of the players and staff had family and friends who were caught up in the problems outside the stadium, so we are all well aware of what went on and what went wrong. 

"The only conclusion that anyone can come to is that something like that can never happen again.

"I'm not just speaking for our supporters here either. Every single football fan needs to know that when they go to a match, the authorities will look after them.

"For that to happen, Paris needs to be a watershed. It has to be a moment that brings about change for the better. Nothing else is acceptable."

UEFA's review of events at the final remains ongoing, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp declared his hope that findings "are getting closer" in July.

Football might not be the first thing that springs to mind if you were to think of Finland.

Long winter nights, saunas, Lapland, reindeer. A quick google search highlights telecommunications company Nokia as its most famous exporter, and that it is renowned for being "the happiest country in the world" with the best education system and cleanest air… oh, and the hotel where this reporter has been staying boasts "the best tap water in the world", too.

Little mention of football, though. After all, ice hockey is the prominent sport here.

Finland qualified for Euro 2020, but their sole win in the competition was overshadowed by the fact it came in a game in which Denmark's Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch in Copenhagen, having suffered a cardiac arrest. It was the nation's first appearance at a major international tournament.

Not that there haven't been some notable Finnish players down the years. Jari Litmanen played for Ajax, Liverpool and Barcelona throughout a long career. Sami Hyypia spent a decade at Anfield from 1999 to 2009, while Jussi Jaaskelainen played in the Premier League for 18 years over spells with Bolton Wanderers and West Ham. Laura Osterberg-Kalmari was nominated for FIFA Women's Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006.

More recently, Teemu Pukki has impressed with Norwich and Lukas Hradecky has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Bundesliga across recent seasons.

Hradecky, now at Bayer Leverkusen, made his name at Eintracht Frankfurt, and it is the German side – Europa League winners last season – who have travelled across the Baltic Sea to take on the might of Champions League holders Real Madrid in the Super Cup.

Litmanen, Osterberg-Kalmari and Jaaskelainen were all guests at UEFA's fan park on Tuesday, a day ahead of the match at the 36,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.

The Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup trophies were on show, though outside the fan park it would have been easy to miss that there was a major European match heading to the city. Indeed, on the opposite side of Helsinki’s grand central train station to UEFA's festivities, a music and arts festival was drawing a much larger crowd.

That will surely change on Wednesday.

Madrid are expected to bring approximately 1,800 fans. Meanwhile, 10,000 are anticipated to be arriving in support of Eintracht. 

The signs were there even as Stats Perform arrived in Helsinki on Monday, with pockets of Eintracht supporters travelling into the city. A day later, the fan park was mostly populated by local football fans enjoying the rare occasion of such a major sporting event – involving one of the world's biggest clubs – coming to their city.

Helsinki's centre will likely be a hub for Eintracht's travelling masses, and even as Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti ran the rule over his side in an opening training session on Tuesday, fans of the German team were making their presence heard outside the ground as the team coach departed.

It's nothing new, though. Barcelona coach Xavi was left furious last season after 30,000 visiting Eintracht fans were said to have managed to gain entry to Camp Nou to watch their team sensationally knock out Barcelona in the Europa League quarter-finals. For the final against Rangers, held in Seville, authorities estimated that 50,000 Eintracht supporters made their way to the Andalusian city.

"They played a big role, if I remember the game in Barca, 30,000, something special and it helped us a lot to perform at this level. They're not here to sightsee, they're here to support us because they believe in us," said goalkeeper Kevin Trapp in Eintracht's pre-match news conference.

"Tomorrow will be the same, we know there’s going to be 10,000 again. We try to give our best and be able to celebrate again. It's a huge part of this club, this team, it's helping us every time."

Eintracht might have the more raucous travelling support, but any local neutrals are likely to be in attendance to watch the stars of Madrid. Ancelotti, asked about his brief experience of Finland so far, compared the country to Canada, the home of his wife, and in training his team looked sharp as they put on a show for the assorted media and a small group of fans soaking in the late evening sun.

Karim Benzema and Luka Modric accompanied Ancelotti in Madrid's media conference, just two of the superstars set to line up in all-white on Wednesday. Ancelotti, as amiable and as composed as ever, confirmed both players would start – unless they had any objections. His team are just rounding off their pre-season, and there were some signs of players still shaking off some rustiness in the finishing drills that ended their practice session.

Eintracht opened their Bundesliga campaign with a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich, and head coach Oliver Glasner knows that, even if his side are underdogs, they cannot show such naivety against the 14-time European champions. With key player Filip Kostic absent to complete a move to Juventus, Eintracht must avoid another humiliation, even if it is an outstanding achievement to have reached this showpiece in the first place.

As for Helsinki, it might be a far cry from the football hotbeds of Paris, London, Milan, Munich or Madrid, but those cities have their fair share of big matches already. The welcome has been warm, the weather perfect and the stadium – constructed in the 1930s but recently renovated – an ideal venue.

Interviewed after his appearance at the fan park, Litmanen told Stats Perform: "It's very important for us to have this kind of game because we don't see these things very often. We cannot get the Champions League final we haven't been in the World Cup or the European championships. This is a big game for Finland."

Now it's time to enjoy the show.

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