Nearly 27,000 cheering fans packed Norway’s national football stadium at Ullevaal in Oslo over the weekend and were rewarded with seeing the men’s national team beat Malta 2-0. The victory nearly sent Norway straight into the European Championships.
Croatia’s victory over Bulgaria halted Norway’s direct qualification for Euro2016 but the hype was building for what Aftenposten’s football commentator claimed would now be “Norway’s most important match since the millennium shift.” It won’t be easy: Norway’s triumphant squad was traveling to Rome and due to face Italy’s squad on Tuesday.
The young Norwegian team members were, at any rate, full of confidence as they headed south. They can boast of a 5-0 score after their last three matches, and are keen to keep the momentum rolling.
Saturday night’s match was won with goals by Alexander Tettey after just 19 minutes of play and then by Alexander Søderlund just after the break. The two Alexander-the-Greats sent fans into ecstasy, with many singing that they were on their way to France (which is hosting the European Championships next year) as they filed out of the stadium.
Martin Ødegaard, the young football sensation who signed with Real Madrid last winter, played for 37 minutes after the team’s captain, Per Ciljan Skjelbred, had to leave the field because of injury. Ødegaard nearly scored right after he hit the field and otherwise was said to have performed well.
Qualifying for Euro2016 will greatly revive enthusiasm for football in Norway after a few years of mediocre results. The national team (landslaget) has gone through a generational change and head coach Per-Mathias Høgmo has had to tolerate criticism. Now the tide has turned, and the Norwegians are hoping to upset Italy, which beat them last year by their own score of 2-0.