Norway’s national football coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen admitted to being disappointed that his team won’t be able to play in the European Championships after all, since Portugal and Denmark won their qualifying matches over the weekend. As far he’s concerned, though, the game is definitively not over.
Drillo woke up Saturday to predictable headlines in Norwegian newspapers of gloom and doom. Denmark’s national team had trounced Cyprus by a score of 4-1, while Portugal beat Iceland 5-3. That means Denmark and Portugal led their qualifying group, of which Norway was a member, and that neither Norway nor other group members Cyprus and Iceland will advance to the European Championships (Euro 2012).
But Drillo gamely told reporters he still had a job to do, and that involves facing off against Cyprus again on Tuesday even though both are now out of the Euro 2012 race. And Drillo was already looking ahead to next autumn, when the qualifying rounds for the World Cup start up.
“It’s possible to say I’m disappointed, but I wasn’t exactly optimistic beforehand,” Drillo told newspaper Aftenposten. Others had dreamed that Cyprus might surprisingly overpower the Danes, and that Portugal would be as surprised by Iceland as they had been when Norway beat Portugal in an early qualifier. That didn’t happen.
Denmark will now meet Portugal for the group’s final while Drillo is looking forward to the next big qualifying rounds for the World Cup. He said he had no intention of retiring some of his veteran players just because they’re getting old, relatively speaking.
“No, I don’t see any big generation shift,” the 69-year-old Drillo told Aftenposten on Sunday. He thus intends to hang to players like 31-year-old John Arne Riise, who said he’s game for at least another four years, not least in the hopes of playing in championship action.
Drillo stressed that he’s always on the outlook for young players, though, noting that “we have a little handful” of candidates on the under-21 team “who quickly can climb up to the A-team.”
The match against Cyprus will be played Tuesday evening on home turf at Ullevaal Stadium in Oslo.
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