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By ESPN Staff

Hodgson Finn boss ahead of schedule

HELSINKI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Finland have signed an agreement with Roy Hodgson to begin his job as national team coach immediately instead of in August as previously announced.

The English former Blackburn Rovers, Inter Milan and Switzerland coach will have Jyrki Heliskoski as his deputy, with their first matches a pair of friendlies in Riyadh against Saudi Arabia on Jan. 21 and South Korea four days later.

Heliskoski was appointed caretaker coach 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, who until Monday was employed by Norway's Viking Stavanger, took Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup finals in the U.S., where they reached the second round, and to their first appearance in a European championship at Euro 96 in England.