While Norway’s national men’s football team was licking its wounds on Monday, the country’s hockey team was riding high. A victory against France at home in Oslo on Sunday secured them a spot in the next Winter Olympics, and the players sang the national anthem with their arms around each other.
“This is the proudest moment of my career,” declared international hockey star Mats Zuccarello, who plays professionally for the New York Rangers and has had many proud moments on the ice at Madison Square Garden. He claimed the team’s last match on the ice at Oslo’s old Jordal arena, which will be torn down to make way for a new hockey arena due to open in 2018, was the best of all.
“To do this in the last match at Jordal, in front of packed grandstands, is really great,” Zuccarello told reporters afterwards. Jordal was built when Oslo hosted the Winter Olympics itself in 1952, so it was a fitting tribute that the national team’s victory in the Olympic qualifier would play out there.
It was a match that Norway simply had to win, and it did by a score of 2-1 with Prime Minister Erna Solberg among the spectators. The victory did not come easily and Zuccarello himself claimed he’d never been so nervous beforehand. He scored, though, as did Mattias Nørstebø, one of the youngest players on the team at age 21.
The match was also a major victory for new national coach Petter Thoresen, who has just taken over for the legendary Roy Johansen. If was his first major test with a national squad that includes his own son, Patrick Thoresen.
Norway is now ready to play in its third Olympics in a row, in South Korea in 2018.