The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Late, late Oslo defeat haunts Norway boss


Norway manager Stale Solkbakken has admitted the 2-1 defeat his side suffered against Scotland in Oslo still keeps him awake at night.

The Scots took a huge step towards qualificat­ion for Germany next year when Lyndon Dykes and Kenny McLean hit late goals to secure a dramatic victory back in June.

Solkbakken said: “It was probably the sorest defeat you will ever feel. I still wake up at night thinking about those last five minutes. It was very damaging for us. If they hadn’t scored, this game would be like a final to see who qualifies.

“But we have to congratula­te Scotland on a great campaign and also the success they have had in recent years. They have not lost many games and have been very good in tight matches – that is very important in internatio­nal football.

“Scotland will be celebratin­g, but we have to be up for the challenge.

“We are without a few players but it gives an opportunit­y for others who want to play.”

The main man the Norwegians are without for tonight’s clash at Hampden is Manchester City star Erling Haaland.

Solkbakken said it was the 23-yearold’s choice to play 45 minutes in the midweek friendly game against the Faroes where he suffered a foot injury.

He added: “It is a small knock that causes a problem with the movement in his foot, but it is not serious. We haven’t talked to Manchester City, maybe he has. All parties were agreed it’s a bit too early to play against Scotland.”

Haaland’s replacemen­t, Celta Vigo forward Jorgen Strand Larsen, says he hopes the Norwegians can spoil the Tartan Army’s Euro celebratio­ns.

He said: “We are here to take three points and spoil the party. I wish it was us who were here to party, but I am happy to get the chance to play.

“Erling is one of the best players in the world, so we will miss him a lot on the pitch, but we will have a team with hungry players.”

Like his boss, Larsen is still smarting about the home defeat at the hands of Scotland. He went on: “It was the most decisive game we played in the last few years and it was hard on all of us.

“We tried our best to come back from that, but we then lost to Spain. We would like to get a tiny bit of revenge.”

Callum McGregor insists Scotland never feared Erling Haaland would sabotage their ambitions of securing back-to-back Euro qualificat­ions.

Steve Clarke’s side will bring the curtain down on a winning campaign tonight when a Norway side, stripped of their talisman, visit Hampden Park.

That is a result at odds with the narrative when the draw was first made, with most European pundits tipping Spain and Norway-plus-Haaland to win through.

“Internally we did not see that way – we backed ourselves,” McGregor said.

“Because, OK you can have a worldclass player, but there are ten others on the pitch too.

“So it is about how strong your group, your system and your squad is.

“You can have all the talent in the world but we have all been in football long enough to know that talent is not enough. “You need to have everything. “Determinat­ion, the will to win and the will not to get beat in certain games when you are down and it is a tough day.

“All these things play a part and that’s where we are really strong as a group.

“We have a brilliant core and the experience­d guys lead it and the younger guys follow.

“It just balances itself really nicely.” Tonight’s match will be a reminder of Oslo in June and a day when all the qualities referenced by McGregor were very much in evidence.

Then, trailing to a Haaland penalty conversion, they dug deep to record a famous last-gasp win.

Lyndon Dykes and Kenny McLean got the goals but it was the collective effort that sparked wild celebratio­ns among the Tartan Army, present and following remotely.

“It was a tough day for sure. But I think that’s what’s brilliant about this squad,” said the midfielder.

“When you make changes in the game it is so important that we have so much quality to come on.

“We managed to turn it on its head and get what has probably been the stand-out result in the group.

“Especially when you look at head-tohead, second v third. It was going to be a shoot-out for second so it was a big result and it took the pressure off.

“I could feel it turn from the side. When you score the first you think, ‘Here we go, we have a chance here’.

“At that point we would probably have taken 1-1 but when it went in there was a real sense we could get the second and it turned out to be a really important result forus.”

Given the fact the losers did not take it well, might tonight be a chance to underline the point that the right teams made it through the group?

“Absolutely. Every game is a chance to prove where we are at as a group,” said the Celtic skipper.

“I think they maybe feel they were hard done by given the way the game went.

“We have had some brilliant results and the way that we have grown year on year has shown that.

“There is now an expectatio­n that when we go to the pitch we will deliver a performanc­e and a result.

“I think they maybe feel they were hard done-by given the way the game went.

“But tomorrow is another stepping stone.

“We are only three games away from the Euros so we need to use that preparatio­n time as well as we can.”

McGregor hit Scotland’s only goal at Euro 2020 – the country’s first at a major finals since France 1998 – when scoring in the loss to Croatia yet is disincline­d to linger on it as he prefers to keep looking forward.

“It was a good goal but it didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things because we didn’t qualify,” he said.

“Hopefully, this time we have a much more positive experience as a group.

“The supporters will be there and bringing the atmosphere and that lifts the whole thing.

“I’m sure you’ll see a totally different tournament come the summer.”

 ?? ?? Stale Solbakken at Hampden.
Stale Solbakken at Hampden.
 ?? ?? Callum McGregor has been impressed with the unity of the Scotland squad and wants to finish the Euro campaign on a high.
Callum McGregor has been impressed with the unity of the Scotland squad and wants to finish the Euro campaign on a high.
 ?? ?? Scotland players in training ahead of Norway tie.
Scotland players in training ahead of Norway tie.
 ?? ?? Billy Gilmour does a stretch exercise.
Billy Gilmour does a stretch exercise.
 ?? ?? Lawrence Shankland in training.
Lawrence Shankland in training.

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