On the heels of the great victory over Germany (in a friendly), Norway promptly lost at South Africa (2-1) and came from behind to beat Finland at home (3-2).
Although the FIFA rankings aren’t the most accurate system ever conceived, they do give a rough idea of the quality of teams.
- Germany: 2nd
- Norway: 45th
- Finland: 57th
- South Africa: 72nd
If Norway hopes to qualify for the World Cup, it’s going to have to have a lot better results against teams worse than it. I’m not sure these last two results are that good an omen.
In surprising soccer related news (via my favorite soccer blogger):
*According to FIFA, the country that has requested the most World Cup tickets (other than host South Africa) is the United States. Go figure. Britain is third, followed by Germany, Italy and Australia.
Yes, that would be 59th ranked Norway beating 2nd ranked Germany in Düsseldorf. With the win, Norway moved up to 56th in the February FIFA rankings and, more importantly, gave its fans a glimmer of hope.
Nordic Football News had the following to say:
It was vintage Drillo from Norway, only a paltry 22% possession, but for a manager who believes that having the ball is inherently a bad thing this is as it should be. For those fleeting moments the ball was under Norwegian control the men in red made the most of it, surging forwards with pace and determination. While Christian Grindheim’s winning goal may have come as a result of some diabolical defending, it was no less than Norway deserved after having gone close through Torstein Helstad and Per Ciljan Skjelbred.
“Good, but not good enough,” was Drillo’s conclusion after the game, being a man who understands how to push the public’s buttons. Instead of basking in victory he, well aware of his public image as a slightly dour professor-type, chose to focus on what he wasn’t all that pleased about. “We played too slowly at times,” he said, but in spite of what was coming out of his mouth experienced Drillo-watches will have noticed an uncharacteristic glint in his eye. This was the perfect start to his second spell in charge of the Norwegians and he knew it.
It may have been a meaningless friendly, but for a Norway team desperate to re-capture the affection of their country and a manager desperate to prove a point it meant quite a lot.
It was only a friendly, but it sure seemed to mean something around here.
…Norway’s national team coach resigned. With Norway last in its World Cup qualifying group, I don’t think anyone around here will beg for him to stay. He had been in charge for the last five years, during which time Norway did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup or the 2008 European Championships.
So long Åge Hareide!
In the wake of Norway’s 1-0 loss last night to the Netherlands, its chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup are almost down to zero. Norway currently sits in last place in Group 9 with only 2 points. Not surprisingly, journalists and fans are calling for the head coach, Åge Hareide, to quit.
“I’m willing to take responsibility,” says team’s head coach, “but I’m not willing to quit just because a bunch of journalists want me to.”
Well, Åge, perhaps you should quit because your team hasn’t won a match in 2008, not because anyone is telling you to.
Norway’s next qualifying match is June 2009. Maybe some young players will step up and save Norway before then.
I must admit that I hate the phrase “must win” because it is rarely used in situations where a team truly must win and often used in situations where the game is simply important. That being said, Norway’s match against the Netherlands on Wednesday at Ullevaal Stadion is likely a must win.
Norway played to a scoreless draw at Scotland over the weekend, further dimming its hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. After 2 matches, Norway now has only 2 points.
The Dutch come into Wednesday’s match as group leaders, with 6 points in 2 matches. If they leave Oslo with a win, they will almost certainly win the group.
But, does anyone really care? A poll taken before the Scotland match showed:
a luke-warm response to the Norwegian A-team. Some 36 percent say that they are ‘very’ or ‘reasonably’ interested, but 64 percent reply that are ‘less’ or ‘entirely’ uninterested in the soccer team.
Long-time Liverpool and current Roma player John Arne Riise added:
“People want results. The only thing that counts is getting three points and winning. If we beat Scotland and The Netherlands, the figures will look quite different.”
Missed on the first. We’ll see about the second on Wednesday.
(My national team fared much better, beating Cuba 6-1 in D.C., advancing to final round play in CONCACAF qualification.)
Posted in soccer
Tagged apathy, concacaf, cuba, fifa, johnarneriise, must win, netherlands, scotland, uefa, ullevaal stadion, US, world cup
I love soccer (if you are so inclined, please read “football” every time I use the word “soccer”). I moved to Norway. I would really like for Norway’s national team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. That being said, Saturday’s result was not good for Norway’s chances.
The 5 teams in Group 9 vying for the automatic bid that comes with first place are (FIFA ranking in parentheses):
- The Netherlands (4)
- Scotland (16)
- Norway (34)
- Macedonia (56)
- Iceland (107)
As you can see, even before the first match, Norway faced an uphill battle, having to upset both the Netherlands and Scotland. Unfortunately this task just became a lot harder with the tie…at home…to the worst team in the group.
Head Coach Åge Hareide, however, vowed not to quit. In spite of this resolve, Aftenposten noted that most commentators called the result “embarrassing at best.”
In other words, don’t book those chartered flights to South Africa quite yet.