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Haaland and Odegaard must continue club form for Norway

Haaland and Odegaard must continue club form for Norway

Two of the best players in the Premier League this season were Norwegian. Erling Haaland broke records as his goals fired Manchester City to a Treble while Martin Odegaard embraced the role of captain to become a driving force for Arsenal who pushed Pep Guardiola’s team all the way in the title race.

Haaland and Odegaard appear destined to be at the top of the English and European game for a long time to come and there’s a good chance both will go down as the two greatest Norwegian players of all-time. And yet their national team have yet to benefit from the emergence of the pair as world-class difference makers.

In fact, Norway might have already blown their shot at qualifying for Euro 2024. They have just one point to show for their first two qualifiers, making this week’s fixture against Scotland (who have six points from a possible six after beating Spain) a must-win match. At the very least, Norway can’t afford to lose.

This comes after Norway failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. While the great and good of world football congregated in Qatar last winter for the tournament, Haaland and Odegaard watched from home. Norway haven’t appeared at a World Cup since 1998, nor have they qualified for a Euros since 2000.

This is a gross underachievement, particularly with Haaland and Odegaard in the team. Norway have talent beyond the pair too with Alexander Sorloth, Sander Berge, Kristoffer Ajer and Mohamed Elyounoussi all experienced at a high level of the European game. Norway should be better than they have shown in recent times.

Stale Solbakken is under pressure. The former Wolves manager has been in charge of the Norwegian national team since 2000 and not much progress has been charted in that time. Norway finished behind the Netherlands and Turkey in 2022 World Cup qualifying and behind Spain and Sweden in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Haaland has scored 21 goals in just 23 senior appearances for Norway and still that hasn’t been enough to move the needle. Norway are no closer to qualifying for a major tournament than they were before Haaland became one of the best centre forwards in the sport and that is damning of the national team’s current leadership.

It should be noted Haaland missed the March qualifiers against Georgia and Spain through injury and so Norway could be a different proposition against Scotland and Cyprus now that the Manchester City striker is back in their squad. Haaland’s finishing ability could be enough on its own to get Norway’s Euro 2024 campaign back on track.

Against Georgia and Spain, Odegaard lacked an attacking focal point to play around and into. That won’t be a problem with Haaland back in the team, although concerns remain over the defensive strength – or lack thereof – within the Norway squad. Solbakken fears Norway has slept on producing high-quality centre backs.

Despite defeat to Spain, Norway held their own for the most part against the 2010 World Cup winners. With a sharper cutting edge in front of goal, they could have started their Euro 2024 qualification campaign with a point at the very least. The margin between winning and losing is narrow at the top of the international game.

Nonetheless, Norway face missing out on another major tournament despite having two of the best individual players in the Premier League right now. Scotland under Steve Clarke are more than the sum of their parts, which is impressive given they have the likes of Andy Robertson, John McGinn and Kieran Tierney. Norway must aim to become the same.

The post Haaland and Odegaard must continue club form for Norway appeared first on Colossus Blog.

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