Norway en route of becoming the new Belgium with its scary golden generation

3.10.2020.  
Norway en route of becoming the new Belgium with its scary golden generation

While their southern neighbours Denmark have the EURO triumph in 1992, Sweden's football has been prominently relevant through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Norway was usually the everpresent but silent northern football country. Especially, as unlike Finland, the country cares deeply about football. Luckily for them, the country is looking at a bright future and making some noise as current Norway's national team can be viewed as a golden generation.


Young talent emerging from Norway looks promising with the ceiling reaching the maximum heights. Resembling the growth of Belgium who now has several world-class players and highest ambitions, with hopefully more end results in the future for Norway.


Fittingly, the young squad has a proper test in the form of European championship play-off mini-tournament. The barrage starts against Serbia on 8th of October, originally scheduled for March 26th but moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The winner of the one match played in Norway will face the better of the duel between Scotland and Isreal for the place in the EURO 2021. The second match will be played on November 12th.


The September international break showed two sides of Norway, one that lost to Austria 2:1 with just three goal attempts, and the one that blasted Northern Ireland 5:1 with braces from its upcoming stars we'll get into.


Now the experienced international manager Lars Lagerback has called up 26 players for the duel against Serbia and the subsequent Nations League games against Romania and Northern Ireland again.


While the side as a whole isn't relying on youth as heavily as the Uruguayans are, Norwegians never had the reason to be as optimistic as they should be now.


Norway national team strikers


Starting the round-up of exciting Norweigan prospects by the biggest of them and the man who is spearheading this revolution. Erling Braut Haaland has taken Europe by storm in less than a season while still showing consistency.


Five goals in as many matches for the 194cms tall striker in this season after getting 44 in 40 games last season for Borussia Dortmund and Red Bull Salzburg. With 10 of those coming in the Champions League.


The 20-year-old's deeds do speak for themselves and the youngest man on Lagerback's list is certainly the leader by example. So far, he scored three goals in four senior appearances for Norway. In the youth level it was 30 in 46 matches. Haaland approaches the game with the professionalism of an experienced veteran - courtesy of his father's playing years - and the enthusiasm of a day-dreaming fan.


Even with him alone, Norway would be a new force on the horizon but Haaland has a partner in crime that is equally unique and imposing.


Alexander Sorloth (24) hasn't had the early meteoric rise of Erling but he has the same height and veteran-like professionalism. The left-footed striker has moved to the German side with impeccable scouting - RB Leipzig, a team that relies on pressing, attacking football, and quick movement of the ball. With 33 goals in 49 matches scored last season for Turkish Trabzonspor, Sorloth is a worthy second barrel in the shotgun Norway has aimed at Europe.


Sorloth has already started his international career strongly with eight goals in 24 matches and that’s without Haaland for the opponents to worry about.


Former Manchester United and current Bournemouth striker Joshua King (28) is a worthy replacement with 48 international appearances and 48 Premier League goals.


Norway national team midfield


Cementing the moniker of a golden generation is the viral teenage sensation from years ago - Martin Odegaard. The attacking midfielder became an internet hit back in 2014 leading to Real Madrid buying him at 16 years of age in January of 2015.


Three loans after and many pejorative comments regarding his career by the more heated football fans, Odegaard is starting games for Real Madrid under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane. At 21 years of age only, and loads of experience across La Liga and Eredivisie, with 22 appearances for Norway as well, Odegaard is well settled in and ready to be relied on.


Another youngster Norway has cooked up, born in 1999, is Jens Petter Hauge - new player of seven-time champions of Europe AC Milan. Moving for a fee of €5,000,000 the winger Hauge has still risen quite a bit of dust due to his playing style explained best by the manager Lagerback before his upcoming debut.


"What Hauge has achieved this autumn has made him come closer and closer to an A national team, and as it looks now, we think he deserves a place. He has an X-factor and a very interesting type of player," said the man who makes the picks for Norway.


Not lagging too far behind the top international team colleagues is the 22-year-old defensive midfielder, Sander Berge. The 195cms tall Sheffield United player is regarded as one of the top talents on his position even before his switch to England this winter. As Odegaard, Berge is also experienced playing internationally with 21 games for Norway already.


To see how good of a start these players have - Norway's most capped player ever is John Arne Riise with 110 games for the national team having played for the country for 13 years. These youngsters are already one-sixth of a way there with the international schedule being much busier in 2020 than in Riise's time. Not to forget the greater chances of qualification with such a golden squad.


On the same position and of the same age as Berge but with 178cms is the second debutant called up - Patrick Berg of Bodo/Glimt, the same team Hauge was on before Milan.


This part of the team also boasts Morten Thorsby and Mathias Normann, both born in 1996 and playing in the central midfield. The former playing for Sampdoria and has 27 Serie A caps after 130 games for Heerenveen in Holland. While Normann has gone to Rostov in Russia and has 40 appearances in the top division of the biggest country in the world.


The rest of the midfield is comprised of experienced players, like Fulham's Stefan Johansen (29) who has 54 caps for his country who is the team captain. He is partnered by a year younger Rosenborg player Markus Henriksen who collected two more caps for Norway. Both of them central midfield players and ready to help the transition of the newer, certainly better generation but one that will still lean on them.


This wide array of central midfielders is topped off by a late bloomer when it comes to international football, AZ Alkmaar's Fredrik Midtsjo who has four games for the Lions.


Mohamed Amine Elyounoussi (26) is a rare winger - only one besides Heute - called up by Lagerback but an important part of the team with 25 caps to his name. He is not the last Celtic player Norway has.


Norway national team defence


Not having as many young talents as the two former lines, the defence still has prospects that are monitored by many clubs across Europe. Versatile centre-back who can be utilized in the defensive end of midfield due to his technical skills is Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer. Long-time Milan target is still in Scottish football and has collected 140 games for the champions of Scotland at age 22. He is the tallest in the squad of giants at 198cms.


The only other certified youngster in the backline is the centre-back Leo Ostigard, also itching to make his debut. Brighton's player currently on loan at Coventry City in the championship has represented Norway at six different youth levels.


Right-back Omar Elabdellaoui (28) is the most experienced internationally in the backline with 46 games for Norway. Galatasaray's player has gone through Manchester City but playing only for the U23 while making his name at Olympiacos.


Lagerback has a similarly experienced left-back Haitam Aleesami with 30 international caps. He is currently without a club after representing Amiens last and most notably Palermo.


The oldest man on the centre-back position is the 34-year-old Tore Reginiussen of Rosenborg who also has 30 caps for his country. He will most likely make the centre-back partnership with Ajer while the 30-year-old Stefan Strandberg will be backup. Playing in Russia for Ural, the nomadic defender has 10 caps for his country.


Although, Brondby's Sigurd Rosted is the more likely partner for Ajer in the coming years before Ostigard flourishes. But Norway has a problem as none of its centre-backs is naturally left-footed.


As Lagerback focuses on the centre of the pitch in midfield, he relies on the wide defensive players and has more to pick than just the two veterans mentioned. Left-back Birger Meling is only 25 and has experience in three different countries with 12 caps to his name.


While the competition at right-back is stiff with Jonas Svensson (27) of AZ Alkmaar has 18 caps and Martin Linnes of Galatasaray has 24!


Norway national team goalkeepers


As was the case with Uruguay and its golden generation, the switching of the guard has not happened between the woodwork for Norway as well.


Rune Jarstein is the primary goalie with 67 appearances for Norway during his 37 years. Not a household name across Europe but certainly in German where he played in 156 games for Hertha Berlin.


His main competitor is Orjan Nyland (30) a backup goalkeeper at Aston Villa that has fallen behind further down in the pecking order this summer due to the arrival of Emiliano Martinez. Former Bundesliga keeper as well, playing for Ingolstadt 04, Hyland gathered 28 caps for his country and will most likely succeed Jarstein.


Also, 30 is the third goalkeeper Andre Hansen who has only played in Norway and Iceland and has four international caps.


Not only does Norway’s national team has an undeniably golden generation of players but Lagerback has the know-how for playing tournaments as he led Iceland to its international glory between 2011 and 2016. While several players play or have played in the same teams which of imperative in the tightly congested schedule of 2020/2021 season.


But the trident up front is the reason even neutrals are excited because of Norway, as Odegaard playing up to Sorloth and Haaland should be a feast for the eyes. First testing grounds is unimpressive Serbia and even though the odds only slightly favour Norway, the whole play-offs are theirs to lose.


With the hopes of neutrals on their backs too, as who wants to watch Euros without the continent’s most exciting striker Erling Haaland?




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