- As at every major tournament since Euro 2000, Norway were officially eliminated in the qualifying phase, in a Group A dominated by Spain and Scotland.
- This latest failure is all the more surprising given that the Norwegian national team has been led by one of the best strikers in the world, Erling Haaland (23), for the past four years.
- The impressive Manchester City striker has yet to break Norway's colossal spiral of losing, despite the format of a 24-team Euro championship since the 2016 edition.
A melting Sylvinho in the middle of the Albanian fans on Friday and a Milan Skriniar quietly qualifying his Slovakian team for the 2024 European Championship. This is also the legacy of Michel Platini, the man who launched the Euro with 24 teams from the 2016 edition in France (against 16 before): Wales, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Hungary, Finland, Austria, North Macedonia, Scotland, and therefore Albania and Slovakia have all taken advantage of this reform for seven years to participate in the party. Yet there is an indomitable nation, supposedly not that small, that has struggled to avoid every major football competition since 2000.
And yes, we are talking about Norway, already eliminated from the race for Euro 2024, due to a third place in its qualifying group (10 points behind Spain and 6 behind Scotland), and not "draftable" via the last edition of the Nations League. But how is such a fiasco possible when you have a scoring machine like Erling Haaland, second in the recent Ballon d'Or vote? The Manchester City striker is so incredible and consistent at club level (17 goals in 16 games this season, after his 51-goal rampage in 2022-2023) that one imagines a Gareth Bale-like destiny, capable of carrying Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 almost single-handedly.
"There has been a culture of failure for more than twenty years in Norway"
And yet, since his debut for the national team at the age of 19 in September 2019, the phenomenal goalscorer has not allowed his country to qualify for Euro 2021 (third in the group behind Spain and Sweden, play-off lost to Serbia), for the 2022 World Cup (third behind the Netherlands and Turkey), nor now for the 2024 edition in Germany. Rest assured, Erling Haaland remains in his mutant standards when he wears the Norwegian shirt, with 27 goals in 29 caps, including six in this Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. Is the 23-year-old captain already as iconic and inspiring a leader as Gareth Bale or, in sequence, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been with Sweden?
"There's been a lot of talk about Haaland's supposed failure, but he personally quickly broke Jorgen Juve's record for goals with the national team [33 goals in the 1930s]," Norwegian journalist Jonas Adnan Giæver said. He's the one who gives hope, who allows the national team games to be sold out, which was never the case before him here. But this elimination is beyond him: there has been a culture of failure in qualifying for more than twenty years in Norway. And this one found its most striking example on June 17 against Scotland.
Euro 2024 hopes dashed in five minutes against Scotland
Withdrawn in March during the first two games of these qualifiers for Euro 2024 (groin strain), with a rout in Spain (3-0) and especially a problematic draw in Georgia (1-1), the blond giant nevertheless made a winning comeback that day. He opened the scoring with a penalty he had caused (1-0, 61′), before receiving a standing ovation from the Oslo crowd as he left the field in the 84th minute of play. And then there was an 87th minute, an equaliser from after a defensive ball from Ostigard, then in the 89th minute, McLean's winning goal (1-2). This is already almost enough to condemn the Norwegian people to yet another summer of regretting in front of the TV the generation of Tore André Flo-Ole Gunnar Solskjær, even with five games still to play.
"Coach Stale Solbakken admitted after the second leg, which was a scoreless draw in Scotland on Sunday (3-3), that his biggest regrets were those five terrible minutes that ruined the qualification," said Jonas Adnan Giæver. It's unforgivable not to qualify for this Euro and the Norwegian fans were convinced that night that the tradition of losing this team had struck again. But by the way, as the tragicomic turn of his 84th-minute substitution against Scotland might suggest, is there really only Erling Haaland in this team?
"There are no demands, only hope"
No, Martin Odegaard (24 years old) has been immense in creation (and captain) with Arsenal since last season. Add to the list Villarreal's solid striker Alexander Sorloth (27), Napoli centre-back Leo Ostigard (23), Burnley midfielder Sander Berge (25) and Club Brugge's promising winger Antonio Nusa (18), and you have a very decent backbone. So, what's the problem? Jonas Adnan Giæver, who launched the football app fcQuiz, insists on the mental and organisational flaws of a country that has only participated in the World Cup three times (1938, 1994 and 1998) and one in the Euro (in 2000).
We have a very good team in games with no stakes, but as soon as the qualifying games come around, we always ask ourselves how we are going to screw everything up. The worst thing is that we would be a serious outsider at the start of this Euro if we had qualified. As much as ten years ago, the players of the national team most often played in the German D2, it is no longer a question of talent. But we got stuck in the 1990s: the Norwegian football culture didn't develop, unlike our individual players at their clubs. The key is there: why this selection does not have as much requirement with an Odegaard-Haaland duo as France can not have with Griezmann and Mbappe? In Norway, there are no demands, only hope. Despite the elimination, Stale Solbakken [in charge since 2020] will not be questioned by the federation, like so many others before him. »
"Luxembourg and Liechtenstein will participate before us"
So much so that the Wikipedia entry of the Norwegian national team is formal: its main feats of arms are to be one of the only two teams in the world (along with Senegal) unbeaten against Brazil (in four meetings from 1988 to 2006), and to have been bronze medallists at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 (yay). It's up to the Haaland generation to dust it all off. In the new format of the 2026 World Cup expanded to 48 caps?
"It's absolutely insane that so many small nations have qualified for the big tournaments all this time, and Norway hasn't," Giæver said. Just think: for our last competition, Euro 2000, Norway faced Yugoslavia, which still existed. The Norwegian national team has been the laughing stock of Europe for so many years. Even in Norway, we make jokes about our selection: they announce that Luxembourg and Liechtenstein are going to participate in a World Cup or a Euro before us. If Erling Haaland's pride is not hurt by such a valve...
- Euro 2024
- Erling Haaland