Kuqi winner keeps Finland in hunt for Euro 2008 place

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HELSINKI, Nov 17 (Reuters) Striker Shefki Kuqi netted a winner five minutes from time to keep Finland in the hunt for the Euro 2008 finals after a 2-1 victory over Azerbaijan in Helsinki today.

Kuqi pounced from close range following a scramble to complete a fine fightback by the hosts after they trailed to Makhmud Gurbonov's 63rd-minute goal in the Group A tie.

Gurbonov chased a long pass into the Finnish penalty area and slotted home.

Striker Mikael Forssell equalised on 79 minutes when he took the ball down on his chest a few metres out and lashed it past keeper Farhad Veliyev.

Finland, who have never qualified for a major tournament, have 23 points from 13 games going into final game in Portugal on Wednesday.

Leaders Poland, who have 24 points, are at home to Belgium later today while Portugal, on 23, host Armenia. Serbia, who have 20 points, are at home to Kazakhstan.

''That's what Shefki Kuqi does,'' Finland coach Roy Hodgson said of the matchwinner.

''I am delighted at the performance and very, very happy that the team still has a chance to qualify going into the final game.

REUTERS RAR BST2253

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