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Tootle's 'slug' goal celebration

The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Hodgson favourite to take over as Finland coach

HELSINKI, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Former Blackburn Rovers and Inter Milan coach Roy Hodgson is the frontrunner to be the next coach of Finland's national soccer team, the head of the Finnish football association said in comments published on Tuesday.

'Talks with him have gone so well that choosing him is a likely solution,' association president Pekka Hamalainen told Helsingin Sanomat daily.

Hodgson, 58, is currently in charge at Norway's Viking Stavanger and would take over from 59-year-old Finn Jyrki Heliskoski, who was appointed caretaker coach for the rest of Finland's 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.

'We have agreed with Viking on his transfer to Finland. So we have agreed on compensation. But talks with Hodgson have not been finalised,' Hamalainen told Finnish news agency STT.

The association president was not immediately reachable for comment.

Viking had hoped to hang on to Hodgson until 2008, but had now given Finland permission to start talks with him, club Chairman Ole Rugland said in statement on Viking's Web site.

Hodgson achieved near-hero status in Switzerland after taking the national team to the World Cup finals in 1994.

'I have missed being a trainer of a national team,' he said in a statement. 'That has tempted me for a long time since the period with Switzerland.'

Antti Muurinen, who had been in charge of the Finnish national team since 2000, was sacked in June after his team's hopes of reaching the World Cup finals were virtually ended in a 4-0 home defeat by the Netherlands.

Finland play their next qualifier against Macedonia on Wednesday. They are fourth in Group One, 13 points behind the Netherlands and 12 adrift of the Czech Republic.