Team Sweden HC B.D. Kennedy expects to use whole roster in rivalry tune-up with Finland

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so perhaps that is why there is no love lost between Sweden and Finland on the international circuit.

The two Nordic nations have met annually for an international friendly since 1992, with Finland leading the head-to-head matchup 17-11, but when they clash again on Sunday, it will be for the second time in three months. That’s because the two national squads already squared off in August for the European Championship semi-final, a game which Team Sweden took 22-14.

That means that this year’s traditional rivalry clash takes on a distinctly different meaning than in the past, serving as both a tune-up for both sides ahead of their medal games at the end of the month and a chance for a little sweet revenge from the Finns.

“I’ve lived in Sweden since 2002, been a part of these games on and off for the whole time I’ve been here, and no matter what age group you’re playing with, if it’s junior national team or senior national team, it’s always a big deal to play Finland,” explained Team Sweden head coach B.D. Kennedy as his team prepared for the matchup.

“Usually you play once every October and you’ve got 12 months to think about revenger or playing each other again, but obviously there was a lot at stake from an international perspective to win the semi-finals. What it added to the rivalry between Finland and Sweden was huge. Both teams are preparing for medal rounds in a couple of weeks and that added on top of the normal rivalry, I think sets up for a meaningful, exciting game.”

While Finland is sure to be motivated by avenging their semi-final loss, Sweden will have much more on their minds. With a chance to take on Italy on the 31st for a shot at the second European title in the country’s history, Sunday will be about ironing all the kinks in preparations. It was their last game against Finland that showed plenty of them, as the Swedes went down 14-0 early due to a few crucial errors. Those will need to be cleaned up quickly, but it was his team’s ability to battle back that has Kennedy the most confident headed into this week.

“The thing I’m probably most proud of is that nobody panicked. We stayed in and focused on just doing what we needed to do and we came up with the plays we needed to win the game,” he said. “That shows a lot of grit. That shows a lot of focus and shows a lot of determination.”

Team Sweden QB Phil Juhlin finding running room Photo: Jari Turunen

Some of those early mistakes could be chalked up to a lack of experience, as Sweden has been gifted an extremely talented young core. This is another opportunity to get them used to the international stage and more than normal are likely to get a taste of it on Sunday.

Kennedy’s philosophy as coach of the national team is that no player should be on the roster that can’t be trusted to play meaningful snaps and all will have their opportunity to prove him correct in this one. The lineup will be virtually identical to the semi-final, but the substitutions are going to be coming much more fast and furious in the rematch.

“We have a lot of young players, so the roster will be very similar, but there’ll also be some guys in the game that we want to take a look at an make sure that we want to keep them on the European championship roster,” Kennedy explained. “We want some guys that haven’t played a game since the semi-final match in August to get some reps and some action. We will go into the game with the idea that we’re gonna play everybody, because we need to see them in action.”

The coach readily admits that strategy will be a delicate balance, with more than a little risk in getting caught looking ahead by a tough opponent. However, this will be a test for all his players to shoulder and the coaches will be taking note of who can stay present and focused on the goal.

“What I’m trying to emphasize, what we’re trying to emphasize as a staff is, just to focus on the moment, because that’s key. You can’t go into this game thinking about the game in a few weeks. You’ve got to go into this game and know every moment is itself,” Kennedy stressed.

“Now, there might be something to shoot for. If I play really good, I might get on that roster for the EM and secure my spot. Sure, there’s some of that in the background, but in my opinion, to be a championship player, you’ve got to be able to focus on the moment and task at hand.”

Everyone will have to perform to beat the Finns and that is the way that Kennedy wants it, giving his team a chance to become a cohesive unit in time for their biggest game in more than a decade and a half. While the worry is that Sweden will get caught looking ahead, the coach himself is looking back at the long road they’ve traveled. He can think of no better penultimate stop on the quest for Gold.

“This journey started back in 2019 and it’s been a wild freaking ride with COVID. I can honestly say, I felt like the team we had organized in 2019 was really, really special. We’ve lost some guys, we’re missing some guys, we’ve added some new guys and marching on we find ourselves here now into the last month of this journey,” Kennedy mused. “Leading up to the European championships with the opportunity to play Finland in the traditional Finnkampen is a great way to end this journey.”

Team Sweden faces Team Finland Sunday, October 17 at 12 noon CET (6 am ET). Watch the game live on

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.