At international level, there comes a time every so often where a crop of talented footballers come through the ranks together. A cycle of evolution of bright young individuals forming the nucleus of a promising team. This could be the case for the Norwegian national team and their band of skilful footballers, as many youngsters emerge as first-class players.
Norwegian National Team Next Generation
A Weight of Expectation
A ‘golden generation’ is a tag that has weighed heavy on international sides in the past. Certainly, the golden era of England of 2006 is a case in point. Much can also be said for the current Belgium side too-a team packed full of superstars. But they are coping better with the tag in spite of having no silverware to show. Wales and Iceland are two other national sides who rightly earned the golden era tag. However, both fulfilled expectations and more at the 2016 European Championship with Wales going to the semi-finals and Iceland to the quarter-final stage.
Step forward next the Norweigan national side. With a population of just over five million, Norway has a small catchment area to choose from. Their lack of talent pool has made life difficult for them in the past. But, as Wales and Iceland have shown, smaller nations can produce big performances when the correct developmental process is in place. And of course, a sprinkle of superstardom.
Stars of the Future in the Norwegian National Team
Of the players who make up this promising side, none have yet proven more successful than man-of-the-moment Erling Braut Haaland. The Borussia Dortmund striker is in a rich vein of form for his club with 33 goals in 31 appearances this campaign. A glittering career awaits for the 20-year-old sensation. The forward came to prominence for his national side with a record nine goals in a single game against Honduras at the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland. His form on the international scene for the senior side has yielded six goals in nine games to date.
Another hot-shot talent is Martin Ødegaard. The on-loan Arsenal man has recently been made captain of his country, having taken his time to evolve from his breakthrough season in his native Norway. But the Real Madrid-owned midfielder matured in the Netherlands with Heerenveen and Vitesse Arnhem. His talent fully flourished back in La Liga with Real Sociedad and he is currently showing his impressive technical skills in the Premier League. He has 28 caps and one goal in his fledgeling career.
Sander Berge was a sought-after talent while at Genk in Belgium. The defensive midfielder was snapped up by Sheffield United, where he made an instant impact but has found the going hard this season. The 23-year-old has 24 caps and a goal in his favour.
Kristoffer Ajer is a promising defender making his name for Celtic. The 22-year-old has 21 games under his belt for the national side. His leadership and defensive qualities give hope of him being Norway’s future shield.
Stars of the Past
The new kids on the block have a chance to cement themselves on the international scene and aspire to a greatness unheard of in their homeland. In the past, the Norwegians have had sporadic success with notable players including Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, John Arne Riise, Egil Østenstad, Oyvind Leonardson and John Carew. All of these were successes on English shores.
The new manager of Norway too plied his trade in the Premier League-coach Stale Solbakken had a brief spell with AFC Wimbledon. As a manager, he has enjoyed a much more successful time, especially with Copenhagen in Denmark. He spent 12 years there over two spells, where he won eight league titles and four Danish cups. His latest seven-year-spell earned him the plum job of managing one of Europe’s most promising teams.
Norwegian Hopes for the World Cup
The latest stars from Scandinavia will have aspirations to compete in their country’s first World Cup since 2008 when the nation achieved their joint best finish of playing in the round of 16.
However, they have not got off to the start for which they were hoping.
After a somewhat comfortable 3-0 win against minnows Gibraltar, Norway were given a reality check when they lost by the same scoreline to Turkey. Promising players Ajer, Odegaard and Haaland all featured in the game.
Meanwhile, the Norwegians know they have their work cut out to qualify first from a group that contains the Netherlands too. The second-place play-off route is a more attainable target for a nation of undeniable talent. Yet they need their rough diamonds polished and functioning as a unit. The qualification campaign has only just begun, so there is enough time to learn, develop and progress.
Time will tell if this is a golden generation ready to shine or if their expectations fail to flourish.