The Norwegian national football team (landslaget) has been drawn alongside Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus and Iceland in Group E of the European section of qualification for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 – a draw seen by many to give the team a very good chance of reaching the tournament.
Norway was among the group of first seeds for the draw, meaning they avoided a number of strong teams, including the likes of Denmark, France, Russia, Sweden and Turkey, from the group of second seeds. Landslaget‘s fantastic form over the past year resulted in them being first seeds, meaning they could avoid Europe’s best footballing nations despite dropping one place to 12th in the world in the latest FIFA World Rankings.
Landslaget‘s manager, Egil “Drillo” Olsen, was nevertheless cautious about the draw, stating in a press release that “it could definitely have been worse” but that his team was still “unlucky with getting Cyprus and Iceland from the fifth and sixth seeds.” Nonetheless, he was clear that Norway “should absolutely finish among the best two teams.” Drillo’s assistant, Ola By Rise, stated his disappointment with Iceland by describing the country to newspaper Aftenposten as an “annoying little brother that likes to spoil the bigger brother’s plans” and a team that has been tough to play against in other recent qualifying competitions. The head of the Norwegian Football Association, Nils Johan Semb, also told broadcaster TV2 that he felt Norway had received a “very good” draw that he was “very satisfied” with, although he pointed to Switzerland as one of the best teams Norway could have been drawn against among the third seeds.
Indeed, the Swiss themselves reacted with satisfaction to the draw, with one Swiss newspaper, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, describing the Norwegian national team as an “undistinguished side” with few “famous names” in its squad. The Swiss manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, told newspaper Tagblatt that his team is “absolutely at the same level as Norway and Slovenia.” Slovenia and Iceland too are reported to be happy with the group.
Norway last qualified for a World Cup in 1998 during Drillo’s first reign in charge of the side. They are currently joint top of their European Championships Qualifying Group alongside Denmark and Portugal. Landslaget will next play a friendly international against the Czech Republic in Oslo on Wednesday 10 August.
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