It all started out so well, in 2009, for returning national football (soccer) coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen. His men’s team was on a roll for most of last year and seemed to be serious contenders to play in next year’s European Championships (Euro 2012). Lots went wrong in 2011, though, and now Drillo is already out hunting for new talent.
Some crucial losses and the shattered dream of Euro 2012 participation plunged the national team (called landslaget) into a downturn that was completed in Cardiff over the weekend, in humiliating fashion. Wales’ national team beat Norway by a score of 4-1.
For the Norwegians, the painful result was eased only by the fact that most fans had lost interest in the national team when its Euro 2012 campaign ended shortly after a 2-0 loss to Denmark in September. So there were no big, scolding headlines. Rather, as one commentator put it, the final, almost embarrassing match of the year was generally greeted with a shrug of the shoulders.
News bureau NTB reported that Drillo, meanwhile, immediately set off on a talent scouting trip while his assistant coach, Ola By Rise, and national football boss Nils Johan Semb, himself a former landslag coach, traveled home to Norway in agreement that 2011 was a disappointing year.
The bottom line is that the national squad only won four of its 10 matches in 2011, against Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Cyprus. They tied a Euro-qualifying match against Denmark in March, but lost to the Danes 2-0 in September. And they also lost to Poland, Portugal and, finally, Wales.
“I agree 4-1-4 was bad, especially since we had more matches at home than away,” Rise told NTB. He said the 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic was the year’s high point, both in terms of the result and player performance.
Veteran coach Drillo never had to tolerate four losses before, nor a total goal score of just 10 over 10 matches. Semb wants to see the defense rebuilt and Rise wants more offense.
Drillo himself headed to Turkey to watch players under age 23 play. Experts say Drillo has missed, and is especially looking for, creative mid-field talent. Renewal efforts are thus already underway.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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