Norway – Cyprus: Three first half goals made sure of home win in low quality game
Ref.: Peter Mikkelsen
L 1: Kurt Sørensen
L 2: John Pallesgaard Nielsen
Written by: kaltz
It was high spring in the Norwegian capital by this Sunday, and the afternoon kick-off displayed several people with their shirts off in the stands. It was perhaps weather more reminiscent of Cyprus than Norway, but it was still expected that the hosts would take a further two points to improve their chances for qualification. With a June home match against Yugoslavia to look forward to, the Norwegians could not afford a slip-up. Cyprus, perennial strugglers, had registered 20 defeats from 20 away World Cup qualification matches throughout their history.
Norway team news
Since the early November win in Cyprus, Norway had played a total of three friendlies, all of which had ended in defeat. Two of these had come this calendar year, and the most recent of them had occured only 19 days earlier. A 3-0 home loss against Poland had hardly boded well ahead of the visit of Cyprus, but having overcome today’s opponents by the same scoreline in Limassol, the Norwegians must have felt somewhat confident going into the tie nevertheless.
The Norwegians had begun the qualification in a 4-4-2 against Scotland, and then they’d switched to 5-3-2 for the trip to Paris. They had since continued in that formation, and would most likely utilise it once again here.
With Norway captain Anders Giske back in contention again after missing out on the away trip to Cyprus, he appeared to be the natural replacement for West Germany based defender Kai Erik Herlovsen, who had featured in Limassol. Herlovsen had not been in action neither for his club team Borussia Mönchengladbach nor at international level since November last year. There were plenty of defensive options still available to manager Ingvar Stadheim, with stalwarts Rune Bratseth and Terje Kojedal also present, along with the talented Erland Johnsen, who had played in both of their first two qualifiers.
For the wide positions there were a further three candidates in ‘Kalle’ Løken, Gunnar Halle and Per Edmund Mordt, the latter based in Gothenburg since 1986. He’d yet to make his mark in the current qualification, but he’d been an unused substitute in Cyprus. In their recent friendly at home to Poland, a dreadfully misplaced Mordt pass inside his own half had gifted the Polish the opening goal.
One notable midfield absentee was Rosenborg’s playmaker Sverre Brandhaug, who had played all 270 minutes of qualification action hitherto. A possible replacement was team mate at club level Ørjan Berg, a 20 year old of some promise, who had done alright in his one qualifier thus far, the 1-0 defeat away to France.
There were a few attacking options also available, with Gøran Sørloth, who by now had moved to Borussia Mönchengladbach from Rosenborg, and Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen included once again. Sørloth had played in all three qualifiers so far, whilst Jakobsen had been on the bench in Cyprus. In addition, lanky Lillestrøm striker Jan-Åge Fjørtoft was also back in the squad, having not travelled to Limassol. Filling in for him in the opposite fixture had been Lyn striker Simen Agdestein, who had just turned 22. Agdestein, also an excellent chess player, was regarded a fine prospect, and he’d notched his first international goal in the 3-2 loss in Czechoslovakia just two days after the trip to Cyprus. His club was currently operating in the second tier of the Norwegian league.
On the topic of Borussia Mönchengladbach: The West Germany Bundesliga club had even a third Norwegian player in their squad. Young midfield man Kjetil Rekdal had had some game time during the spring, and he had travelled back home for this qualifier, but he’d ultimately been left out of the 16 man strong matchday squad.
Cyprus team news
Already playing their sixth from a total of eight qualifiers, Cyprus were looking to end a run of four successive defeats. However, they’d given a good account of themselves over both ties against Scotland, where they’d twice suffered marginal defeats. The 3-2 home loss, with the winning goal coming in the sixth minute of time added on for injuries, must have been a particularly bitter pill to swallow.
Cyprus manager Panikos Iakovou had already used a few different formations since the start of the qualification, and for the two Scotland games he’d been implementing a 4-5-1 variety without a recognized right-sided defensive player. Typical for them had been the use of a spare man and two man-markers at the back, whilst left-back ‘Pambos’ Pittas was possibly their star player so far in the qualification. It would be interesting to see how Iakovou would line his charges up here in Oslo.
Goalkeeping veteran Giorgos Pantziaras had kept goal for their four first qualifiers, whilst 27 year old Andreas Kharitou had stepped in for the trip to Hampden Park. Pantziaras had been an unused substitute there, but had not travelled altogether on this occasion. Kharitou would have to fight it out with Antonis Kleftis, a player which it is difficult to find much information on other than him replacing today’s rival Kharitou during the ill-fated trip to play the Netherlands in the 1988 European Championships qualification. The Cypriots had lost 8-0, and Kleftis had come on as early as the third minute after a big firecracker had been thrown at Kharitou, injuring him in the process. The game was soon deemed null and void, and was later played again behind closed doors with ‘just’ a 4-0 Netherlands win the outcome. Judging from the video clips from that original game, Kleftis did not embarrass himself.
Cyprus had four ever-presents so far in defenders Pittas and Giorgos Khristodoulou, midfielder and captain Giannakis Yiangoudakis, and fellow midfield man Floros Nikolaou. They had all been included in the squad once again. Since the trip to Glasgow just short of a month earlier, they’d made just two changes to the squad of 16: forward Giannakis Ioannou, who had just made one appearance so far in the on-going qualification, had been replaced by Evagoras Khristofi, who had played the full 90 minutes in their first two qualifiers. The other change had come about among the ‘keepers.
39 year old Dane Peter Mikkelsen had been put in charge. This was the up and coming referee’s third game internationally, and they had all been qualifiers: Northern Ireland 1-0 Turkey had been his November 1987 debut, whilst he’d also taken charge of an Olympic qualifier between Iceland and Portugal (0-1) in Reykjavik the year after. In March this year, Mikkelsen had refereed the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter final second leg fixture between Roda Kerkrade and CSKA Sofia.
Norway and Cyprus had only just met once in footballing history, which had been the reverse fixture in November ’88. Visiting Norway won 3-0 in Limassol, with all goals coming in the second half.
Low sunshine, apparently quite warm, as several spectators can be seen with minimal clothing. The pitch was certainly not good. It appeared very uneven and bumpy, and some players would struggle with their close control because of this. The stadium was quite sparsely populated.
|1 Erik Thorstvedt||26||Tottenham|
|2 Gunnar Halle||23||Lillestrøm|
|3 Terje Kojedal||31||Valenciennes|
|4 Rune Bratseth||28||Werder Bremen|
|5 Anders Giske (c)||29||Nürnberg|
|6 Karl-Petter Løken||22||Rosenborg|
|7 Ørjan Berg||sub 83′||20||Rosenborg|
|8 Kjetil Osvold||27||PAOK|
|9 Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen||23||Rosenborg|
|10 Gøran Sørloth||sub 60′||26||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|11 Jan Åge Fjørtoft||22||Lillestrøm|
|12 Ola By Rise||28||Rosenborg|
|13 Simen Agdestein||on 60′||22||Lyn|
|14 Tom Gulbrandsen||on 83′||25||Lillestrøm|
|15 Erland Johnsen||22||Bayern München|
|16 Per Edmund Mordt||24||IFK Göteborg|
|1 Andreas Kharitou||27||Omonia|
|2 Spyros Kastanas||26||Ethnikos|
|3 Kharalambos Pittas||22||Apollon|
|4 Giorgos Khristodoulou||23||Omonia|
|5 Makis Sokratous||27||AEL|
|6 Giannakis Yiangoudakis (c)||30||Apollon|
|7 Khristos Koliantris||sub 90+1′||25||AEL|
|8 Floros Nikolaou||26||NEA Salamina|
|9 Giorgos Savvidis||sub 88′||28||AEK Nea Filadelfeia|
|10 Kostas Petsas||28||Omonia|
|11 Giannos Ioannou||23||APOEL|
|12 Antonis Kleftis|
|13 Antonis Antrellis||on 90+1′||25||Apollon|
|14 Panikos Orfanides||on 88′||27||AEL|
|15 Evagoras Khristofi||27||Omonia|
|16 Khristakis Khristou|
Norway appears to be another country quite proud of their marching band traditions, and it is only when they’ve left the pitch that the two teams can take up their respective positions. The weather must make the Cypriots feel right welcome, and it is they who will get the first half under way. Kicking off are striker Giorgos Savvidis, their sole player based abroad, with AEK Athens, and captain Giannakis Yiangoudakis, a midfielder of relatively light frame. Yiangoudakis has previously displayed some fine passing ability, and his workrate is also not bad. He’s had a tendency to operate towards central left areas, and though he’s originally a right-footer, he also has the ability to direct a pass with his left.
Our tape contains no action until about 15 minutes in, which is when Cyprus have attempted a long ball in the forward direction for striker Khristos Koliantris, one of their two goalscorers in the home defeat against Scotland, only to see him beaten to it by Norway defender Rune Bratseth, the tall, elegant West Germany based number 4. Are the visitors seeing long balls in the forward direction as a means to get under the skin of the Norwegians? Koliantris may have some pace to burn, but the same surely applies for said Bratseth. The angle of the pass from Yiangoudakis had not favoured the striker, and feeding balls into the channels might prove more fruitful.
On the topic of raking forward passes: Another Norway defender, Bratseth’s centre-back colleague Terje Kojedal, an experienced campaigner based in France, where he’s playing second tier football with Valenciennes near the Belgian border in the north of the country, shoots a pass from his left boot out into the right hand channel, where striker Jan Åge Fjørtoft proceeds to nutmeg Cyprus defender Spyros Kastanas. Fjørtoft, a 22 year old prospect from Norwegian top flight club Lillestrøm, is earning himself a reputation for going down too easily, and having nutmegged Kastanas, the visiting defender falls into the temptation to try and hold Fjørtoft back. He immediately realizes that he’s erred, and he lets go, only to see Fjørtoft go to the ground in theatrical fashion. The referee buys into it, and though the free-kick is correct enough as a decision, antics such as when Fjørtoft had taken his quick and dramatic tumble should hold little place in football.
Cyprus had conceded 13 times from their opening five qualifiers, three of which had come when they’d lost 3-0 at home to Norway last November. Kjetil Osvold, a fleet-footed midfielder currently plying his trade in Greece, where Thessaloniki is his home city and PAOK his employer, often has a say in attacking set-pieces for the hosts. He’d got himself on the scoresheet in the reverse fixture, although on this occasion it would have to be a delievery, as Fjørtoft had been impeded outside the penalty area near the byline. Osvold, a matchwinner for Norway when they’d stunned Argentina, Maradona and all, in a pre-World Cup friendly in this exact stadium in 1986, was a left-footer, and as he swung it towards the near post, a Cypriot player arrived to nod it into the back of his own goal, with goalkeeper Andreas Kharitou well beaten to it. In fact, the Cypriot ‘keeper, making his second straight qualification appearance, had been expecting to collect the ball in the centre of the six yard area, though the visiting defender had cut the ball’s flight short. The player is identified as centre-back Giorgos Khristodoulou, who would be marking Norway forward Gøran Sørloth in open play. However, from set-piece situations, Norway would thrust their big defenders forward, and Bratseth was someone who needed attention. It appeared that Khristodoulou had been instructed to mark him. Before Bratseth can get near enough to connect, Khristodoulou has put the hosts 1-0 up. Cue celebrations in the stands.
Oddly, Norway’s opening goal seems to have been given to Osvold officially, as it is his name rather than Khristodoulou’s which seems to feature in any match statistics. It is clear as daylight, though, that the goal had been scored by the Cyprus defender.
A look through the visiting side
The visitors are predominantly focused on keeping it tight at the back. They also seem to waste little time when in possession, as their aim is to get the ball quickly into the Norwegian half of the pitch. Holding on to it in midfield does not seem to be their wish, something which is understandable, as there does not appear to be a whole lot of creativity among their midfield players. When a ball is hoisted long from the backline, it usually comes from the foot of either libero Makis Sokratous or left-back Kharalambos Pittas. The latter is a left-footer, and though he’s only 22, he’s displayed earlier in the qualification that he has probably more natural ability than any of his team mates.
For the second game running, Iakovou has prefered Kharitou over 36 year old Pantziaras between the sticks. The latter had done alright, and could hardly be blamed for the goals Cyprus had conceded with him in the side. However, he hardly represents the future at his age, and so Kharitou had got the nod. And it was not as if there was a lot separating the two: Kharitou could also hold his own, even at this level, although his aerial dominance was not as impressive as it should be.
Having performed in something of a 4-5-1 formation over the two games against the Scottish, Cyprus now had more of an outlined five man defensive pack. They were organised with a libero behind two man-markers, and in addition to Pittas at left-back, they now had a more distinct right-sided defensive player in Floros Nikolaou. Nikolaou had played in central midfield in their previous qualifiers, so his performance wide right defensively came as something of a surprise. Perhaps had Iakovou identified a flank threat from the Norwegians, sparking a need for a right-back? Nikolaou, not the quickest in two shoes, was a combative type of player, and would enjoy some fine tussles with Norway’s diminutive Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen. However, when they were in possession, he would at times seek towards more central areas of the pitch.
With Sokratous once again taking the spare man job, it was up to Khristodoulou and Kastanas to deal directly with the two Norwegian strikers. Sokratous was someone who would focus solely on mopping up or striking it long in the forward direction; he had no ambition to contribute in coming forward. Both their marking defenders were robust players, and in particular this applied for Khristodoulou, who had given a fair account of himself throughout the qualification. Kastanas had played a smaller part, but was making his second successive start at least. He was clearly tasked with the eccentric Fjørtoft, whilst Khristodoulou’s job was to keep a watchful eye on the somewhat smaller but more compact Sørloth.
It is fair to say that Cyprus operated with a three man midfield, although only two men were holding down central positions. They were Yiangoudakis and another combative performer in the steady but unspectacular Kostas Petsas. The latter had not always been an inclusion, though he was making his third start of the qualification. He would naturally slot in next to his skipper, who would clearly be the Cypriot go-to man for any midfield possession which they were seeking. As previously stated, it was not a lot. Petsas was rarely a player you saw in possession, something which appeared to suit him just fine.
The third member of the Cyprus midfield was Giannis Ioannou. He had scored their second goal in the home game against Scotland, when he’d tucked home from close range. He was hardly a remarkable player, although he was equipped with some pace, and also a decent enough left foot. In tandem with Pittas behind him, Ioannou would form a useful left hand side for the Ullevål visitors. The away team’s number 11 was operating with more responsibility as a wide man than someone who would access central areas, giving their midfield a bit of an odd shape: Two in the centre, none along the right, and Ioannou to the left. Only on very few occasions would he be drafted inside, but there was little doubt that he was operating as a wide man.
Up front, the Cypriot team had given Athens based striker Giorgos Savvidis company in the shape of the quick and inventive Koliantris. Savvidis had in fact not shown a whole lot so far in the qualification justifying why he should be an automatic pick up front, and even on this occasion he would appear second best with Koliantris clearly more bent on making runs off the ball than the so-called ‘star man’. While Koliantris had held something of a wide right-sided berth over the two matches against the Scots, he now seemed to apply himself towards the left among the two strikers. Savvidis was probably more skillful on the ball, but Koliantris’ opportunism saw him lend a more favourable impression on this occasion.
The Norway team
The game has little pace and not a whole lot of quality. The hosts are in the ascendancy, but Norway fail to impress. They seem to lack creativity in midfield, and they are often focused on getting the ball into the direction of either of their two strikers. If it is Fjørtoft who is the target, then the ball is often angled into the channels, and more often than not does he operate towards the right hand side. However, he has one major, annoying feature about him, and that is his desire to go to ground too easily. At times, it is embarrassing. Fjørtoft is heading for a ‘con man’ label at the rate which he goes to ground during this game. His aim is obviously to win free-kicks for his team, but to take diving to this level really is upsetting for anyone watching. One could in fact say that his marker, Kastanas, does well to keep his cool. Be exposed to someone trying frequently to cheat, and it is human nature to get mad. Kastanas just gets on with his game.
Speaking of the hosts, they’ve yet again picked Erik Thorstvedt for the goalkeeper’s position. He’s an unrivalled number 1 for Norway, and having made the switch from Swedish league football across to Tottenham in the English first division, Thorstvedt is looking to establish himself as a first choice in one of Europe’s top leagues. His experience from playing at this level week in, week out can only benefit his country. This is Thorstvedt’s 53rd cap.
They operate with a four man defensive line for the first time since the home defeat by Scotland in their opening qualifier. Their six attempts at playing with three centre-backs had only yielded a solitary win, and they’d conceded no less than 13 times in the process. Ten of these had come in their three last matches, all friendlies. Now, they had a central defensive pairing consisting of the fine Rune Bratseth of Werder Bremen in West Germany and Terje Kojedal of Valenciennes in the French second division. Bratseth had arrived late at the domestic top flight scene with Rosenborg, and he’d earned himself a fine move to the West German club two years earlier. Much due to his unchallenged pace and composed nature, he was considered one of the finest defenders in the Bundesliga. The 28 year old was capable of holding down both a libero and a marking role. He was pretty much a spare man on this occasion, with certain liberties in going forward.
As for Kojedal, a robust and aerially strong player, though with much less pace than his partner, he would also at times make advance when in possession. Kojedal had fine distributive skills, and he would often be the one looking for Fjørtoft’s run into the channels. He appeared to thrive in possession, an element in the centre-back’s game which added an extra dimension to him. I am not making a direct comparison, but some of the feats in Kojedal’s game were reminiscent of those of Oleg Kuznetsov, the wonderfully talented Soviet stopper. First and foremost this was recognizeable in how Kojedal strode forward.
The two wide defenders in the Norwegian team were to some extent allowed crossing the halfway line, although neither Gunnar Halle along the right nor his compatriot Anders Giske across the pitch were marquee players in the hosts’ building of attacks. Both were competitive players. Halle, you felt, could at times be a little naive in his positioning, as Cyprus were often looking to spread it long into the channels for their two strikers to try and run on to. Norway’s right-sided defender was not always alert to this. He would combine alright with Løken ahead of him, though, and he did not shirk away from a tackle. The same could be said for Giske, the team captain. He was another one from the West German Bundesliga contingent, and being a key player with Nuremberg, he was a reliable customer. Still, there was not much finesse in his play. He was more about raw power.
The midfield four were working according to traditional roles. Along the right hand side was the industrious Karl-Petter Løken, a player who was often seen in a more attacking capacity at club level, where he was the domestic league’s leading goalscorer at the time, having recently scored four goals in a 6-2 win for Rosenborg against Mjølner. Løken, 22, was deceptively quick, and though he did not seem to have anything particular about him technically, he would still often make it to the byline when taking his full-back on, often from sheer dedication. He was one of three Rosenborg players in the midfield four, and on the left hand side they had the pint-sized Jahn-Ivar “Mini” Jakobsen. On the topic of that 6-2 win for their club side, “Mini” had notched the other two in addition to Løken’s four. He was quick, was Jakobsen, though he certainly had a limited technical repertoar, often trying to outrun his opponent rather than take him on with skill. He had failed to make much of an impression so far in the game, which had arrived at the half hour stage in the first half.
In the centre of the pitch, Norway had again put their faith in the one-paced Kjetil Osvold. The 27 year old was based in northern Greece, with PAOK of Thessaloniki, and was winning his 34th cap, fourth highest in the team (after Thorstvedt, Kojedal and Giske). Osvold was someone who thrived in possession, and preferably with a bit of space to strike a pass with that fine left foot of his. He was clearly less satisfied when the goings got tough, although on this occasion there had not been a whole lot of midfield battles. Osvold had accepted a big responsibility for attacking set-pieces, when he would be the one to hit the ball into the area whether it be a free-kick or a right wing corner. He’d somehow officially been awarded Norway’s opening goal, although it had clearly been an own goal from Khristodoulou.
Alongside Osvold in the centre of the park was another small player in Ørjan Berg. At 20 years of age, he was only making his sixth appearance at international level. He was quite an industrious type, but he was certainly not without playmaking skills. Still, he would have to accept working in quite a conventional midfield role on this occasion, where he rarely broke out of position, usually patrolling the central areas either side of the centre circle. He benefitted from his tenacity, but did not seem to have much power in his boots.
Up top, the Norwegians had Gøran Sørloth and Jan Åge Fjørtoft. We’ve touched on the latter already, and he was keeping Kastanas engaged up top. Sørloth, now a third Norwegian player at Böckelberg in Mönchengladbach, was more stationary, but he would at times be the one they looked to if there was a ball played up from the back. He was physically imposing, and he would give his marker Khristodoulou a tough time. Sørloth was perhaps less of an outright goalscorer, but would pave way for players around him with his strength. As he was about to show, he also possessed quite a shooting boot.
The Norwegians failed to get sufficient pace on the ball, and their staccato approach would at times be easily read by the visiting defence, which was sitting deep and mopping up whatever was thrown at them. Norway were sound in involving their wide players, and particularly Løken was a busy individual during the first half. He would take on Cyprus left-back Pittas on more than one occasion, and despite his relatively awkward-looking running style, he would from time to time get his way so that he could aim a ball into the centre. Still, there was not plenty of aerial strength up front for the hosts, although Sørloth could take some knocking off the ball if he had made his mind up to come for it. He would head just over from one such occasion when beating his marker to the ball not long after 1-0.
There was no denying Sørloth when he stepped up to confidently strike the ball into the bottom right corner for 2-0 with just over ten minutes left for play in the first half. Norway had gained a free-kick from around 28 yards due to a Khristodoulou handball, straight out in front of Kharitou, and Sørloth hit it with quite a lot of venom, seeing the ball kiss the inside of the upright on its path into the back of the net, with the goalkeeper arriving just too late to keep it out. It sure was a fine piece of opportunism, though you felt that the ‘keeper should’ve done better. It looked like he slipped as he was trying to reach his left hand post in time to stop the ball’s flight.
Just a minute later, and it was 3-0! This was almost an explosive development, happening so suddenly, as there had been nothing in the Norwegians’ play in the minutes preceeding Sørloth’s goal to indicate that there were goals to come. Cyprus midfielder Petsas took a bad touch deep inside the Norwegian half, and picking up the ball was Bratseth. The tall defender shot ahead like a missile, travelling 65 yards before striking home left-footed from just inside the area for the hosts’ third low to the right of Kharitou. He’d left his opponents trailing him, as neither Sokratous nor Khristodoulou or Pittas had managed to keep up in attempts to prevent him from running through. It was a magnificent piece of individual play by the big defender to score a solo goal of some proportions.
Norway were looking to build from the momentum which those two goals in quick succession had given them, and only a couple of minutes after Bratseth’s wonder goal did Sørloth release Fjørtoft for a shooting chance from the left of centre about 18 yards out. The striker’s left-foot effort had been directed towards the near post, but Kharitou did well to claim it in his grasp.
Visitors strike right on half time
Cyprus had not tested Thorstvedt all evening until some fine interpassing between their two strikers saw Koliantris tee up Savvidis for a low, left-footed effort as he cut into the area from the right. Thorstvedt had few problems in claiming, but it was a warning for what was to come a few minutes later, as the Cypriots reduced the arrears only a minute from half time. It was again the two strikers who combined well to set Savvidis up for a run deep into the right handed channel. He was fouled almost by the corner flag by Fjørtoft, who was attempting to help Giske out in stopping the AEK Athens man. The free-kick, taken by Savvidis, was only partially cleared by the head of Fjørtoft, as Khristodoulou picked the ball up on 25 yards to have a pop with his left foot. He struck it low, and it came off the heel of his team mate Ioannou, luckily for the visitors, the ball ricochetted into the path of Koliantris, who arrived to smack the ball home low diagonally from the right-sided corner of the six yard area. Thorstvedt stood no chance in saving the striker’s right-footed shot, and Koliantris registered his second goal of the qualification, making him their leading scorer in the process.
Just before the half-time whistle, there’s a headed chance for Sørloth from Halle’s long throw on the right, but he could not find the back of the net for a second time as his effort went over the bar. Still, a two goal cushion seemed a decent return from a half which had hardly been an epitome of quality football, but for that quickfire double around ten minutes from the whistle.
Norway 3, Cyprus 1.
There had been no half-time changes in personnel, so the 22 starters reappeared for the initiation of the final 45 minutes. With the game pretty low in quality during the first half, could an improvement be expected for the second period? For the Norwegians, the two points were obviously instrumental, but they would also prefer to freshen up on their goal difference. As it currently stood, they were worse off than both Scotland and Yugoslavia, the two teams occupying the qualification berths from this group, though should they upset the odds and beat Yugoslavia in Oslo the following month, a victory by a single goal would take them equal both on points and goal difference. Firstly, though, they’d have to deal with the final half of this fixture. Kick-off belonged to Norway’s front two Fjørtoft and Sørloth.
It is the visitors who appear to be the quickest out of the blocks early in the second half, although neither shot, from Ioannou and Savvidis, carries any conviction or even direction, and from distance they fail to put the big Norwegian custodian to the test. Cyprus appeared to have something of a ‘shoot on sight’ policy. They’d only sparingly paid the Norwegian penalty area visits during the first 45 minutes, although they’d got that goal back late in the half, giving them some kind of a vague hope of a comeback. Those two early shots apart, they did not cause much of a stir inside the hosts’ half of the pitch, and Norway would gradually seize back the initiative in the game. The home side, though, would at times doze off from their own set-pieces when balls were played up from the back, upon which the Cypriot team would rush out and place opposing players well offside. This actually proved quite an effective tactic in all its simplicity.
The Norway boss had said during the half time interval that he wanted his charges to return to the pitch as if “the score were still 0-0”, and naturally he’d been hoping for a response to that, wanting his team to get into the face of the visitors. Despite those three goals, Norway had hardly set the world alight with their first half play, though you could certainly not argue against their efficiency. And then there was Bratseth, whose wonder goal had brought the spectators to their feet. He looked a cut above the rest with his composure at the back, and he was not afraid to cross into enemy territory ball at feet, although he would not replicate anything even carrying a slight resemblance of that wonder goal of his for 3-0.
The state of the pitch was hardly sublime. It appeared difficult to play sound football along the deck, although it was difficult to say for sure, as the Norwegians appeared to have a preference for the direct, whilst the visitors, well, who knows exactly what their tactics were when in possession of the ball. There was some articulate interpassing along the right hand side, and Norway looked to release Løken into crossing positions again, as he and Halle had combined to tee the former up, with Pittas struggling somewhat to maintain his position defensively. On this particular occasion, Løken overhit his cross, but the omens were alright. Norway had shown that they were capable of getting into positions for wide delievery.
With the Norwegians having regained control of the proceedings, it should hastily be added that they did not produce superior attacking football. They were a modest team with limited capability, and few individual players stood out. Sørloth up top kept giving his marker Khristodoulou a difficult time, whereas the other forward, Fjørtoft, again displayed his tendency to go way too easily to the floor. Having done well to win possession from his marker Kastanas down by the left wing corner flag, he then dropped like a sack of potatoes to the ground, claiming that the Greek stopper had fouled him. There had not even been a minor tug. Had yellows for diving been invented, Fjørtoft had done his bit to sign up. It really was embarrassing to witness.
By the hour, the hosts made the game’s first substitution. They decided to withdraw striker Sørloth for Simen Agdestein, who came on for his fifth cap. The 22 year old from the second tier of Norwegian football was apparently a player in whom the management saw a lot of potential, and he’d notched once in his first four outings at national team level. His birthday had been only the previous week, and a fine, belated present would surely be a second goal to go with the one which he’d struck away to Czechoslovakia in a November 1988 3-2 friendly defeat. Sørloth, who came off, had failed to make a big impression in-game, though his sweetly struck free-kick for the second Norwegian goal had surely justified his inclusion in the starting eleven. His replacement was a different kind of striker: More mobile, quicker, though without Sørloth’s physical strength.
The substitution fails to spark the Norwegians; they continue to labour at an unimpressive pace. Granted, Agdestein had registered a shot on target within 20 seconds of his arrival, though his left-footed effort from 18 yards lacked power, and was easily held by Kharitou. The home side’s front two did not seem to have a great deal of understanding between one another, and although the Norwegians had the majority of midfield possession, the lack of creativity was almost alarming. In Osvold they had a player who would often take an extra touch or two, thus delaying their progress, whilst his central midfield compatriot Berg appeared to be full of enthusiasm and vigour, but, alas, with limited capability in threading a pass through for either forward. Instead, Berg would often look for Jakobsen out on the left hand side, and the two diminutive Rosenborg players seemed to thrive in the vicinity of one another. The latter had had an early second half headed effort over the bar, whilst he’d been worked into a decent shooting position from the edge of the area as the clock was approaching the midway point in the second half. His right-footed shot went well wide of the upright, though, and really summed up the second period until then: low quality.
It was not that the visitors were much to shout about, but at least they held their own defensively. They were making sure to let their two man-markers continue in sitting tight to each their centre-forward: Khristodoulou was now dealing with Agdestein, whilst Kastanas was still shadowing the theatrical Fjørtoft. Sokratous, the libero, would not risk anything, and stayed behind his fellow defenders throughout. Even left-back Pittas made precious few contributions inside the attacking half of the pitch, perhaps due to an awful cross which he’d attempted earlier, and which must have left him somewhat embarrassed.
They were of little resistence even in the centre of the pitch, the Cypriots, as perennial skipper Yiangoudakis had a poor game. He’d displayed a shocking lack of awareness when he’d taken way too long on the ball in a rare moment of midfield possession, and the ball had been easily picked off him. Petsas, his partner in the engine room, was not much of a ball player. He could run and tackle, but he would often struggle to get near enough to his opponents to use his strongest ability. And Ioannou, who was both a bit of a wide left player as well as a third midfielder, well; his presence hardly aided their plight. He seemed confused as to where he should operate. In fact, their most useful player, defenders apart, was Koliantris, who assisted well inside his own half during the second period, often giving chase and aiding right-sided defender Nikolaou in the territory where the hosts had Fjørtoft and Jakobsen.
There was a rare shot on target when Fjørtoft picked up a clearance outside the 18 yard area and orientated himself towards his right. However, in line with the quality of proceedings, he scuffed his effort, which was too easily gathered by Kharitou. It may just be repeating earlier passages, but there really was dreadfully little quality on display on this lovely Oslo evening. The crowd also appeared to lack in enthusiasm, and there was very little noise accumulated from the stands, where we were served pictures by people eating ice cream with their tops off. As it is, both teams appear to treat this half as little more than exercise. It is almost painful to watch. Has the clock stopped?
The clock had not stopped, though there is another ten minutes left of the game when central midfielder Berg works himself into a shooting position. He’d been fed the ball by Agdestein some 15 yards inside the opposition’s half, and with no Cypriot interested in closing him down, Berg could advance unopposed until around 22 yards, when he let fly. However, shooting did not appear to be his forte, and his right-footed effort was a relatively weak one, and easily gathered by Kharitou.
The hosts looked better when they would build from the back, and when either centre-back decided to cross the halfway line ball at feet. Oddly, the Cyprus team seemed unaware of this feat in the Norwegians’ tactics, and so they had no designated player to close either of the two central defenders down. This led to plenty of space for both Bratseth and Kojedal when either came forward, and if they did not chose the freedom which lay ahead of them, they would try to find a wide player in space along the flanks. Whenever Kojedal or Bratseth joined in, counting errors were created in the visitors’ defence. Still, Norway lacked the cohesion inside the final third which could’ve caused further damage to the away team. At best, they would end up with an attacking set-piece, although surprisingly, they failed to create harm through flag kicks or free-kicks.
Another Norwegian substitution
With seven minutes remaining, the hosts take off midfielder Berg and replace him with another work horse in Lillestrøm’s Tom Gulbrandsen. The second Norwegian substitute is a 25 year old making his ninth appearance for his country, and while Berg had hardly been their most creative midfield spark, it should be said that flair and vision were hardly what Gulbrandsen was associated with. This substitution could be seen as Stadheim wanting to see the game out, and that he was more than content with two points in the bag and a two goal cushion to boost their goal difference ahead of the visit of group favourites Yugoslavia. Gulbrandsen slotted straight into the central midfield role next to Osvold.
There is preciously little to write home about even towards the end of the game, although Kojedal does make another impressive dart in the forward direction. Along with his fellow central defensive partner, the curly-haired 31 year old, who was indeed about to leave professional football in the second tier in France to return home to the domestic scene, where Norwegian second tier club Hamarkameratene were to be his destination, tried to set Agdestein up inside the area. The striker, who had had an unremarkable cameo, failed to keep on to the ball.
Cyprus bring on their maximum quota of two substitutes towards the end, when 27 year old AEL Limassol man Panikos Orfanides replaces the largely invisible Savvidis. It should be said, though, that whilst official statistics operate with Orfanides as the first Cypriot substitute, his physical similarity to Evagoras Khristofi, who has appeared earlier in the qualification and who is also among the listed substitutes, is striking. Could the reports have got this wrong, so that this is actually Khristofi making a late entry, rather than Orfanides taking part in his first ever qualifier? As the time’s almost out, even Antonis Antrellis, a player who has previously been seen as a right-sided defender, or even slotting in at centre-half, comes on for striker Koliantris. Who knows what Iakovou’s idea with this latest substitution was. 49 seconds into time added on, the Danish referee put those out of their misery who had not yet left the Ullevål. People had been seen leaving the stadium for a few minutes already.
In beautiful spring sunshine, Norway seized the initiative in the game just after the quarter of an hour mark, when big defender Khristodoulou headed Osvold’s free-kick into his own net. Further first half goals followed, two for the hosts to see them three up by 35 minutes, as both Sørloth (long range free-kick) and Bratseth (solo run) brought the crowd to the edge of their seats, and then a late opening half consolation goal from forward Koliantris.
The pace of the game was low; the poor condition of the pitch made sure there were plenty of passes not reaching their intended targets. In fact, quality of proceedings were low throughout. The hosts dominated, but were unable to carve out any good opportunities after the break. Cyprus probably gave their worst performance of the qualification. Norway move past France and on to four points, though they’ll need to improve for next month’s visit of a fancied Yugoslavia team in order to stand a chance of causing an upset.
1 Thorstvedt 6.7
had one tame shot to deal with apart from conceding the goal
2 Halle 6.9
sturdy full-back display, a no-nonsense tackler, and at times combined well with Løken along the right hand side
3 Kojedal 7.2
saw plenty of the ball in the build-ups of attacks, and his left foot would often find a team mate in advanced positions. Very solid in challenges, good game
4 Bratseth 7.4
the Norway libero scored a sensational goal, and also marshalled their defence in a ‘Man of the match’ performance
5 Giske 6.8
always committed in the tackle, but not so contributive along their left hand side in coming forward
6 Løken 7.0
at times a fine outlet along the right, from where he would put in several crosses, although preciously few of necessary quality
7 Berg 6.7
a tenacious performance, though not with a lot of quality, and formed a central midfield with Osvold which mostly failed in creativity. Fortunate not to be booked after a couple of heavy challenges. Subbed late on
(14 Gulbrandsen –
had a few touches in the engine room after coming on)
8 Osvold 6.8
saw plenty of the ball, but would often move in little circles, and there was not a whole lof of forward-thinking in his game. Assisted for the own goal
9 Jakobsen 6.8
endeavour, yes, but little quality on the ball. Good battle with Nikolaou, and praise for getting himself into a couple of goalscoring opportunities, although to little avail
10 Sørloth 6.8
disappointing over all performance, though he struck his goal very well from long range. Typically operated with his back to goal, and was quite heavily marked by Khristodoulou. Taken off for tactical reasons
(13 Agdestein 6.4
appeared enthusiastic right away, but would fade and display a lack of quality in his near control)
11 Fjørtoft 6.9
his dreadful tendency to go to the ground too easily apart, he was the more agile Norwegian forward, moving well into the channels, and stretching the Cypriot defence in trying to create openings for others. Needlessly gave away the free-kick which ultimately led to the visitors’ goal
1 Kharitou 6.8
possibly at fault for the second goal when he would’ve seen the free-kick late, but other than that did what was asked from him
2 Kastanas 6.8
stuck closely to Fjørtoft throughout, and was often drawn out into the channels
3 Pittas 6.5
struggled at times with Løken defensively, and did not offer much coming forward. His balls into space rarely of much quality
4 Khristodoulou 6.7
marked Sørloth, and gave another committed display. Obviously let himself and his team down with the own goal, but other than that challenged well
5 Sokratous 6.8
swept behind the markers, and would play it long when under pressure. Made sure to sit very deep
6 Yiangoudakis 6.5
could not influence the centre of the pitch in a positive manner, and his creative play was hampered by tenacious opponents
7 Koliantris 6.8
easily the livelier Cypriot inside the opposing half, and looked particularly interested before the break, when he also tucked away neatly their goal. Had to cover more ground defensively in the second half, and tired late on
(13 Antrellis –
saw the game out as a right-sided midfielder)
8 Nikolaou 6.8
probably wasted as a right-sided defender, as his qualities could’ve been useful in the centre of the park. Some interesting tussles with Jakobsen, and could not always prevent crosses
9 Savvidis 6.2
effectively kept in check by the Norwegian defence, and not much movement off the ball. Very disappointing in leading the line
(14 Orfanides –
brief cameo in which he was not involved)
10 Petsas 6.3
battling midfielder which rarely got any tackles in, and who was inefficient in possession
11 Ioannou 6.1
difficult to interpret his role precisely, and would often end up as something inbetween a wide man, a forward, and a midfielder