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By ESPN Staff

Hodgson could start as Finland coach early next year

HELSINKI, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Finland's football association hopes to have Roy Hodgson in place as national team coach early next year, rather than in August as previously announced.

The former Blackburn Rovers, Inter Milan and Switzerland coach 'could possibly' start earlier in 2006 after his current employers, Norway's Viking Stavanger, named Swede Tom Prahl as coach from January, the Finnish association said on Monday.

'Our aim is, of course, that Roy Hodgson could begin his work in the employ of (the Finnish FA) in the early part of the year,' Pekka Hamalainen, chairman of the Finnish association, said in a statement.

He said financial and tax-related issues needed to be resolved and the association's board would have preliminary discussions at a Tuesday meeting about bringing forward Hodgson's contract.

Finland said in August that Hodgson would take over from interim coach Jyrki Heliskoski on Aug. 1 as Finland start their qualifying campaign for the European championship in 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

Heliskoski was appointed caretaker in July after Antti Muurinen, in charge since 2000, was sacked when Finnish hopes of reaching the World Cup finals were effectively crushed in a 4-0 home defeat by the Netherlands.

Hodgson, 58, took Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, where they reached the second round and to their first appearance in a European championship at Euro '96.