Norway’s men’s national football team has once again literally been kicked out of the competition to play in an international championship. The team includes some of the world’s brightest young football stars, but that didn’t help in Thursday night’s match against Serbia, even on home turf.
It was a bitter loss for Norway, which hasn’t qualified for either a European Championship or the World Cup for 20 years. Popular Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck, who had a good record of guiding other countries’ teams into championships, was hired by the Norwegian football federation in the hopes of doing the same for Norway. Not even a new generation of sports stars like Martin Ødegaard and Erling Braut Haaland, however, managed to outscore Serbia, which won the match at Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadium by a score of 2-1. Mathias Normann scored Norway’s only goal and commentators agreed that Norway was simply outplayed in what had been billed as the national team’s most important match in five years. If Norway had won, it would have also won a spot in the finals for next summer’s postponed Euro 2020.
“We met a better team,,” Lagerbäck told TV2 after the match. “Our supporters over-estimated us and under-estimated Serbia.” Haaland agreed: “Serbia is better than us and they deserved to win.”
Speculation was swirling whether Lagerbäck will now be replaced. Commentators claimed he made a series of structural and tactical errors and hadn’t selected a good line-up, noting how Jens Petter Hauge (who recently signed with AC Milan) was benched. Lagerbäck conceded only that he wished he’d had Normann playing from the start, “but otherwise there weren’t many who played as well as they should.”
Matches against Romania and Northern Ireland remain during the next week of Euro 2020 qualifying rounds, even though Norway now has no chance of Euro 2020 action. Lagerbäck’s contract runs until the World Cup in 2022 but he said he had “no problem” quitting earlier if asked.