The head coach of Norway’s national men’s football team was mighty unhappy on Tuesday, after being told that his star player won’t be able to take part in two upcoming qualifiers for the next European Championships. Erling Braut Haaland will have to miss the important matches against Spain and Georgia.
“I tried to convince the medical staff that we could wait a bit (to officially excuse Haaland from Saturday’s qualifier against Spain),” Norwegian coach Ståle Solbakken told reporters in Marbella, where the team has gathered for training. “As the somewhat aggressive coach I can be, I (told the team doctor) ‘this can’t be possible,’ but there’s no point. He (Haaland) won’t be ready to play.”
It’s the latest in a string of medical absences for Haaland, this time a groin injury that reportedly was painful during a match for his pro team, Manchester City, against Burnley last weekend. Haaland’s scording record for Manchester City has been extraordinary, and for Dortmund before that. Haaland’s record for his own national team, however, is much poorer, after only playing in eight of the past 14 matches. “This is enormously unfortunate and too bad for Norway,” said state broadcaster NRK’s commentator Carl-Erik Torp. “Without Haaland, Norway’s chances are considerably worsened.”
Solbakken said Haaland himself was also unhappy, and sorry to miss another qualifier for his national team. Solbakken claimed Haaland was frustrated and in despair: “You won’t get me (to think) that the boy doesn’t want to play, that he isn’t putting a priority on the national team,” he told reporters. “If you’d seen him in my hotel room at midnight last night, you’d understand that.” Solbakken also denied there’d been any pressure from Manchester City officials, who according to magazine Kapital are paying Haaland the equivalent of NOK 220 million a year, to excuse the 22-year-old from the match.