Norway’s national football team (landslaget) defeated a talented Czech Republic side 3-0 in a friendly international in Oslo on Wednesday night as they warm-up for crucial European Championships qualifying matches later this autumn.
Despite the fact that the game was being played at a busy period at the start of the new season for many European domestic leagues, players and fans alike will have seen the match as an important dress rehearsal for the crucial European Championship qualifying games against Iceland and Denmark in September. Norway did not disappoint, with two goals from Mohammed “Moa” Abdellaoue and another from captain John Arne Riise giving the team their first ever win over the Czech Republic.
‘Moa’ shows his class
Coming into the game, both squads were missing key players through injury, with Norway’s captain Brede Hangeland out. Alexander Tettey would come into the Norwegian midfield in the absence of others, while “Moa,” who plays his club football for German side Hannover 96, was again favoured as manager Egil “Drillo” Olsen’s lone striker, despite previous criticism that he was not suited to the role. The Czech Republic, ranked 31st in the world, had English Premier League stars like Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech and Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky ready and raring to go.
Norway started the game far better than the visitors, threatening as they so often do from set pieces. Central defender Kjetil Wæhler had two opportunities in the opening 20 minutes to score from one of Riise’s ever-threatening corners, coming within millimeters of the first goal after eight minutes when his header hit the crossbar. It took only 23 minutes for Norway to open the scoring, but they did so in open play. “Moa” was perhaps fortunate to get hold of the ball just outside the Czech penalty area but from then on showed his skill and quality, beating two defenders before hitting a beautiful shot low and into the corner past a full-stretch dive from goalkeeper Cech. It was only Moa’s third goal for his country, and his first at Ullevål Stadium in Oslo. The rest of the half was fairly uneventful and although Morten Gamst Pedersen almost converted a chance to give the hosts a 2-0 lead, Norway went into half-time with a comfortable one goal advantage.
A captain’s goal
The visitors were more forthcoming in the second half, with Norwegian goalkeeper Rune Allmenning Jarstein tested on a few occasions. All in all, Jarstein dealt well when called into action, and Norway continued to look the more likely team to get another goal. They did just that on 72 minutes, when substitute Simen Brenne released captain Riise in the box. Riise held off the Czech defenders and managed to get in a stinging shot from close range, which the despairing Cech could only get a hand to on its way into the net.
Landslaget was not finished yet, with “Moa” showing off his finishing ability to test Cech again with a shot from outside the area. In the 88th minute, with the Norwegians still looking for another goal, substitute Tarik Elyounoussi found himself with an opportunity to round Cech in the box and went down under the goalkeeper’s challenge, with the referee giving a penalty. Replays showed that Cech had got the ball and not the man, but Norway were not complaining – and after “Moa” stroked home the penalty for his second of the night, landslaget was able to come away with a very creditable 3-0 victory.
‘One of Europe’s best’
After the game, goal hero “Moa” told newspaper Aftenposten that he had had “probably my best game for Norway.” “Drillo” praised “Moa” as one of Europe’s finest finishers, to which “Moa” agreed. Both Czech goalkeeper Cech and captain Rosicky described the 25 year-old forward as “a very good striker.” “Moa” was particularly happy that the lone striker system had finally worked for him and landslaget. “It is very important that the wide players and midfielders pour forward, and it worked very well today,” he said.
Norway’s next internationals will be on 2 and 6 September against Iceland and Denmark in crucial European Championship Qualifying Group H fixtures. Landslaget is joint top of Group H with Portugal and Denmark, and will need two victories if they are to have a chance of guaranteeing qualification. Winger Gamst Pedersen commented to Aftenposten that while it was great to win and play so well against the Czech Republic, “it is the result that counts” against Iceland and Denmark.
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