Norway’s national men’s football team was being roundly criticized within Norway on Monday after losing a critical playoff match against Hungary for a spot in the European Championships next year (Euro2016). Players themselves were critical, and very disappointed.
The Hungarians were characterized as stronger and simply better, while the Norwegians were “imprecise” and “overly confident” heading into the match. One commentator for Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet went so far as to call the Norwegian team’s head coach Per-Mathias Høgmo “cocky,” while others claimed his “philosophizing” over football must give way to more practical football management.
Newspaper Aftenposten called Sunday’s match, the second of two against Hungary in the Euro2016 playoff round, a “fiasco.” Opportunities were squandered and the Hungarians beat Norway at home in Budapest by score of 2-1.
They’d also beaten the Norwegians on their own home turf in Oslo on Thursday, but Høgmo was unrepentant after the second loss. He denied he’d “gambled” by fielding a team that surprised many football experts because it didn’t include more seasoned players and did include some with little national team experience, including young Martin Ødegaard. Høgmo was forced to “adjust his formation” while the match was underway.
He remained confident at a post-match press conference, claiming that his young squad nonetheless “had shown good development” and would continue to develop. He answered simply “no” when asked if he was afraid he’d lose his job as head coach. He remained “satisfied” with Norway’s overall performance during the Euro2016 qualifying rounds, at least until the two playoff matches against Hungary.
“We are of course very disappointed, I have no comment beyond that,” Høgmo said. One thing was clear: Norway won’t be participating in next summer’s championships, and will thereby also lose its chance at millions worth of new sponsorship funds and participation bonuses.