The days following the European Championship qualifying football match between Scandinavian rivals Norway and Denmark in Oslo on Saturday evening have seen recriminations between the two nations as bitter as the cold weather on the night of the match itself.
TV2, which broadcast the 1-1 draw, confirmed that 1.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the game at its peak, despite the fact that the global campaign event Earth Hour, for which people were asked to turn off all electricity, occurred during the match. TV2 also noted that a peak of 500,000 was recorded for the mammoth five-hour build-up the channel devoted to the so-called “Battle of the North.” These figures were nonetheless under the record sporting viewer figures in Norwegian history, which were, reported newspaper Aftenposten, recorded for the European Championship final in Women’s Handball in 1997 – also played between Denmark and Norway – which attracted around 1.4 million viewers.
Danes complain to FIFA
There was a great deal of criticism for Norway’s players and manager Egil “Drillo” Olsen after the match, especially from their opponents. Danish coach Martin Olsen told reporters that the Norway team was “only dangerous from throw-ins and corners.” He went further, suggesting that he would ask the world governing body of football, FIFA, to consider changing the laws of the game to ensure that the offside rule applies to throw-ins. This came after Norway utilized left-back John Arne Riise’s long throw technique to full effect against Denmark – something which annoyed Olsen, who said that Riise took too long over the throw-ins.
In response, Drillo said “we actually created nothing from throw-ins and corners, and that disappointed me,” adding that “it was they that scored from a dead ball situation, and we that scored from open play.” He also rejected criticism that Norway had been lucky, pointing out that Denmark, too, had struggled to fashion out good chances in a contest that failed to live up to the pre-match expectations.
Olsen wasn’t the only critic of Drillo’s style of play to be found in Denmark, though. Denmark’s legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel described Norway in the Danish press as “a primitive team,” and almost everyone in the Danish media agreed that their players produced the better performance.
The Norwegian press was also critical of its own team’s display. Aftenposten described the performance as one of the worst of Drillo’s second period in charge of landslaget (since January 2009). Newspaper VG also judged the performance negatively, stating that Norway “impressed no-one” and were “lucky” to secure a draw.
No trouble between fans
The was some good news to be heard following the game – both sets of fans behaved themselves, and fears of violence between rival organised “firms” of hooligans were not realized. Those in charge of the national stadium at Ullevaal did nonetheless confirm that 10 seats had been destroyed in one of the sections used by home supporters. In total, 24,828 saw the game live at the ground, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and lots of local celebrities including skiing star Petter Northug.
Norway will meet Denmark one more time during the European Championship qualifying campaign when they must travel to Copenhagen and the Danes’ own home stadium – a match that Danish manager Olsen is already predicting he will win.