“Give us Sweden!” bannered Norway’s biggest newspaper, Aftenposten, on Wednesday after the Norwegian men’s national football team wound up in the playoffs for one of the last four spots in the European Championships next year. The Swedish team is viewed as a good challenge that the Norwegians might be able to overcome.
Norway’s opponent won’t be known until this weekend, when the final playoff matches will be announced after a draw on Sunday. Norway will be be up against either Sweden, Bosnia, Ukraine, Hungary, Denmark, Slovenia or Ireland. The playoffs themselves will be held from November 12-17, and represent the last chance to qualify for Euro2016 in France next summer.
While Norwegian football fans’ championship dream stayed alive, their young players failed to qualify directly when they lost Tuesday’s last qualifier in their group competition to Italy by a score of 2-1. The result was not at all unexpected, since Italy is considered a powerhouse in the football world, but the Norwegians were widely viewed as doing a good job in Rome Tuesday night. They even led well into the second half of the match, after Norway’s Alexander Tettey scored after just 23 minutes of play.
An error by Haitam Alesaami later allowed Italy to even the score, however, and then the Italians scored again. Most agreed it would have been a “sensation” if Norway had won, but that didn’t keep either fans, the Norwegian players or their head coach Per-Mathias Høgmo from dreaming big.
Now they’ll keep dreaming until the playoff match in November. It’s been 15 years since Norway last qualified for the European Championships.