Norway’s hopes of a direct qualification for next year’s European Championships in men’s football were dashed Tuesday night, when they failed to beat Romania. They ended up with a tie, though, meaning the dream hasn’t died completely.
“We just have to focus on our last two matches,” Lars Lagerbäck, the popular coach of the resurgent men’s national football team told TV2 after the 1-1 score in Bucharest. He added, though, that “I expect it’s over for us. It’s very unrealistic to think that we’ll manage a qualification.”
It will all come down to the points logged by each of the national teams in Norway’s group that also includes Spain, Sweden, Romania, Malta and the Færoe Islands. Norway will meet the latter two in its final European Championship qualifiers. Spain and Sweden are currently in the lead.
Tuesday night’s match, meanwhile, didn’t play out before an empty stadium in Bucharest after all. Romania’s adult fans had been banned because of unruly and racist behaviour at earlier matches. The European football federation responded by ordering a match “behind closed doors,” but the Romanian hosts latched on to a loophole in the rules that allowed children under age 14 to attend the match if invited at no charge.
Nearly 30,000 children, with every 10 escorted by one adult, thus streamed into the stadium along with 200 Norwegian fans who’d bought tickets before the earlier ban was announced. There were no racist incidents and the match proceeded as scheduled.