Per-Mathias Høgmo is arguably the most talked-about man in Norway these days. Many were speculating that his days as head coach of the country’s national men’s football team are numbered, after another humiliating loss over the weekend.
This time the Norwegians lost another important World Cup qualifier when they failed to beat Azerbaijan. The match in Baku on Saturday ended with a score of 1-0. If Norway also fails to beat San Marino on Tuesday, Høgmo’s fate will likely be sealed.
The national squad once beat San Marino by a crushing score of 10-0, back in 1992. “I don’t think we’ll win by 10 goals,” football veteran Erik Thorsvedt who played on the team at the time told newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday. “But it simply won’t be acceptable if don’t beat San Marino.”
Høgmo may not survive even if Norway does finally emerge victorious. Høgmo has so far been forgiven for losses against powerhouses like Germany, and because Norway’s national team has been going through a “generation shift,” with several young and inexperienced players now on the squad. But the fact that Norway now ranks as the worst team among the Nordic countries, and the only without any goals or points in the World Cup race, has even prompted the president of Norway’s national football federaton Terje Svendsen to let it be known that Høgmo isn’t under any special protection. He can be fired at any time, if he doesn’t quit of his own accord.
Høgmo himself has been trying to shrug off all the fuss around his future. “I have lived so tightly with top clubs and the national squad and you (the press) for 25 years,” he told reporters after returning from the latest defeat in Azderbaijan. “This is very predictable, I know how it flares up.”
Høgmo, who was hired in a controversial move that unseated the popular Egil “Drillo” Olsen three years ago, avoided answering questions about his career, claiming it “wasn’t the right time. In football things can change very quickly.” He continued to claim that he has “great faith” in his players, and many of them have remained loyal to him, saying they support his coaching despite all the losses.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian coach Ståle Solbakken, who’s become legendary for his work with the pro-team in Copenhagen FC København, has emerged as the most likely candidate to take over for Høgmo. Solbakken remained mum, citing his contract with the Danish team.