Norway had realistically surrendered their final opportunity of qualification for next year’s World Cup in losing at home to Yugoslavia in their previous qualifier. They now trailed the Balkan country by four points, and though both countries had three matches left for play and six points still to play for, Yugoslavia were looking increasingly likely to join Scotland in Italy. France were level on points with today’s hosts, albeit with a slightly inferior goal difference. This appeared to be a game in the battle to finish third, and thus be ‘the best of the rest’. France’ solitary qualifying win had come when they’d beaten the Norwegians 1-0 courtesy of a late Papin penalty in Paris the year before. However, hadn’t there been a hint of improvement under the guidance of Michel Platini? They would look to finish the qualification strongly, although a runners-up berth appeared to be beyond them.
Norway team news
In their previous game against Yugoslavia, Norway had had to do without first choice goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt due to injury. He was back in the squad this time around, something which ousted Thor André Olsen from the matchday squad. With Ola By Rise deputising between the sticks against the Eastern Europeans, he became the 19th player to feature for Norway in the ongoing qualification.
A total of six players which had been among the 16 last time around, were not present on this occasion. In addition to Olsen, they were West Germany based defenders Erland Johnsen, left-back and captain Anders Giske, midfielders Kjetil Osvold and Tom Gulbrandsen, as well as striker Gøran Sørloth. Giske had switched from Nuremberg to Cologne during the summer, and was a regular with his new club. He’d featured in four out of five qualifiers, and had carried the captain’s armband each time. Why had he not been picked this time around? Well, simples: he had retired from international football just the previous month. He was still just 29.
A surprising omission was the one of Johnsen, who had featured in Bayern Munich’s two most recent league matches. Perhaps had the player felt the need to remain with his club as he was in the process of becoming more frequently involved at first team level.
Midfielder Osvold had started each of the five previous qualifiers, and this would suggest that the reason for his absence was injury. However, he would feature in PAOK’s opening league match of the 1989/90 season, which took place on Sep 17, twelve days after this qualifier, as they drew 1-1 at home to AEK Athens. Gulbrandsen of Lillestrøm had started one qualifier and been an appearing substitute on three other occasions. He had also seemed to be an established squad member by now.
Striker Sørloth, who had returned to Rosenborg after his brief spell in West Germany with Borussia Mönchengladbach, had started each of the five qualifiers hitherto, and he would feature at club level in a European Cup game about a week after this qualifier. Again, the reason for absence could’ve been injury, but also in his case possibly a minor one? Also, could Stadheim have wished to try out new players and perhaps build for the future, acknowledging that qualification was out of reach?
Into the squad came these five players in addition to Thorstvedt: full-back Hugo Hansen, 22, of Bryne, and Rune Tangen, a centre-back, 24, Moss. The former had featured at international level on a number of occasions from 1986 to 1988, but predominantly at Olympic level. Still, the Norwegian FA considered appearances for the Olympic team to be full international level, so he’d clocked up a total of ten caps. Tangen was yet uncapped.
Rosenborg’s elegant playmaker Sverre Brandhaug, who started Norway’s first three qualifiers, was back in the squad, and so too was experienced Brann midfielder Per Egil Ahlsen. The latter, 31, had been a mainstay during Norway’s previous World Cup qualification campaign, the one ahead of Mexico ’86, and also on a few occasions in qualification for the 1988 European Championships. However, he’d not played at national team level for two years, with the exception of the 3-2 friendly defeat in Czechoslovakia in November the previous year, in something of a makeshift select. Ahlsen possessed a wicked shot, something which he’d given pure evidence of during the Norwegian FA Cup final in 1984, when he’d scored with an unstoppable rising free-kick from 35 yards, incidentally against Thorstvedt.
In place of Sørloth, Stadheim had brought back Jørn Andersen, the 26 year old now with Eintracht Frankfurt. He’d scored in each of the first four league matches of the new campaign, although he’d not found the back of the net in either of their last three. Still, this record was more than enough for him to warrant a call-up.
Who would assume captaincy with no Giske in the squad? Brandhaug had done so in the one match which Giske had not featured previously, so he could well do once again.
It should also be taken into consideration that Norway had played out a goalless friendly at home to Greece two weeks earlier. That game had seen rare starts for Hansen, Johnsen and Mordt.
France team news
Since France had replaced Henri Michel with his former star player Michel Platini last autumn, they had seen something of a turn-around on the player front. However, in their most recent qualifier, the 0-0 home draw against Yugoslavia in April, no less than seven of their starters had also featured during their opening qualifier, the 1-0 home win against this afternoon’s opponents.
25 players had been in action during France’ first five qualifiers, two of which had been introduced as substitutes last time around: Christophe Cocard and Didier Deschamps. Only the latter remained in the squad for this qualifier. Perhaps was Cocard not in Platini’s plans anyway, but he did miss some league games for Auxerre around this date.
France were fresh with impetus from their scintillating 4-2 win against Sweden in Malmo. It had been a slightly odd game, with the referee taking the teams off the pitch a few minutes into the second half due to a severe thunderstorm. Upon returning, France eventually struck four times, their very first goals in 1989 altogether, with the striker’s couple of Papin and Cantona notching twice each. It was a wonderful result against an opponent which was usually tidy and well-organised.
Platini had brought 17 players to Sweden, and with just 16 possible for this matchday squad, he’d withdrawn two of the 17: back-up ‘keeper Gilles Rousset and Toulon defender Bernard Casoni. The only player drafted in was Auxerre’s goalkeeper Bruno Martini, who so far in the qualification had been Bats’ understudy in each of their five games.
If the line-up from the Sweden game was anything to go by, no less than four players were in line for their debuts in the ongoing qualification: left-back Éric Di Meco of Olympique Marseille, big centre-back Yvon Le Roux from PSG, tough-tackling midfielder Bernard Pardo from Bordeaux, as well as eccentric forward Éric Cantona of Montpellier. Among the quartet, 29 year old Le Roux was easily the more internationally experienced, having made his full France debut as early as 1983. He was even a bronze winner from Mexico ’86, having started during the 4-2 third place play-off win against neighbouring Belgium.
Platini was surely building for the next qualification campaign, even if a tiny glimmer of hope remained as far as qualifying for Italia ’90 was concerned. The squad’s average age was 25,5, with just experienced custodian Bats having surpassed 30.
47 years of age was Bulgarian referee Todor Kolev. This was only his second international task, and strangely, his one previous match had come in this very qualifying group, in December last year, when Yugoslavia had beaten Cyprus comprehensively on home ground.
In club football, Kolev had some relatively unspectacular appearances behind him in both the European Cup and the UEFA Cup, all first round ties, one in each year in 1986, ’87 and ’88.
This was the eleventh head to head between the two countries. Despite losing their inaugural meeting in Paris by 2-0 in 1923, their only encounter before World War II, France were superior with a 6-1-3 record. They had of course won the opposite fixture last autumn, though Norway had triumphed on home soil just over two years earlier, when they’d beaten the French 2-0 in qualification for the 1988 European Championships. That was the only time in four that Norway had escaped without losing at home to the French.
|1 Erik Thorstvedt||26||Tottenham|
|2 Gunnar Halle||24||Lillestrøm|
|3 Terje Kojedal||32||Hamarkameratene|
|4 Rune Bratseth (c)||28||Werder Bremen|
|5 Stig Inge Bjørnebye||19||Kongsvinger|
|6 Karl-Petter Løken||23||Rosenborg|
|7 Sverre Brandhaug||sub 76′||30||Rosenborg|
|8 Per Egil Ahlsen||31||Brann|
|9 Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen||23||Rosenborg|
|10 Jørn Andersen||26||Eintracht Frankfurt|
|11 Jan Åge Fjørtoft||sub 76′||22||Rapid Wien|
|12 Ola By Rise||28||Rosenborg|
|13 Hugo Hansen||22||Molde|
|14 Rune Tangen||24||Moss|
|15 Ørjan Berg||on 76′||21||Rosenborg|
|16 Simen Agdestein||on 76′||22||Lyn|
|1 Joël Bats||32||Paris Saint-Germain|
|2 Manuel Amoros (c)||27||Olympique Marseille|
|3 Éric Di Meco||25||Olympique Marseille|
|4 Yvon Le Roux||sub 56′||29||Paris Saint-Germain|
|5 Franck Sauzée||23||Olympique Marseille|
|6 Bernard Pardo||28||Bordeaux|
|7 Didier Deschamps||20||Nantes|
|8 Christian Perez||26||Paris Saint-Germain|
|9 Jean-Pierre Papin||25||Olympique Marseille|
|10 Jean-Marc Ferreri||sub 76′||26||Bordeaux|
|11 Éric Cantona||23||Montpellier|
|12 Bruno Martini||27||Auxerre|
|13 Franck Silvestre||on 56′||22||Sochaux|
|14 Laurent Blanc||on 76′||23||Montpellier|
|15 Jean-Philippe Durand||28||Bordeaux|
|16 Stéphane Paille||24||Sochaux|
There is no prelude of sorts on the tape which we have from this game, so the first moment gives us the very kick-off itself: Initially we see only two pairs of legs, but we immediately after learn that the game’s inaugural kick’s been performed by Norway’s front two Jørn Andersen and Jan Åge Fjørtoft.
It is September 5. The following day contains a whole swathe of qualifiers across the UEFA zone, but Norway against France is the only one being played out on the Tuesday. The early evening kick-off has been unable to attract a large crowd. In fact, views across the stadium display a whole lot of empty areas, and as it will turn out, Ullevål Stadion was only about a third full. After more than 22,000 in attendance for the Yugoslavia game, this must have come as a major disappointment to the hosts. It could probably best be explained through the fact that qualification was now more or less beyond the Norwegians. And the French no longer held quite the same appeal internationally as they’d done just a few years previously. Also, the brief Scandinavian summer would have come to an end by now.
With any idea of qualification so far-fetched that even dreaming would have felt unnecessary, both of these teams could have afforded to experiment somewhat with their respective line-ups, perhaps lending an eye even ahead to the next qualification, the one for the 1992 European Championships in Sweden. With the game now just under way, the audience had learnt that both teams were fielding players who had not previously taken part in the ongoing qualification: Three for Norway, four for France.
Visitors come to attack
If France no longer harbour any great belief that reaching Italia ’90 is feasible, they certainly manage to conceal this in the game’s initial stages. They race out of the blocks, and appear to take their hosts by surprise. On a number of occasions earlier in this qualification, France had often been too languid in their approach work, often slowing play down in midfield, taking extra touches when rather a quick pass in the forward direction could’ve proved key. However, Platini now appears to have them more direct. They look to get in behind the Norwegian defence, and they do not waste much time dallying around in midfield.
Norway ‘keeper Erik Thorstvedt is back in the side after missing the Yugoslavia defeat, and he’s called upon almost immediately, as a nearly disastrous cushioned header back by midfielder Sverre Brandhaug is seized upon by the alert Jean-Pierre Papin. Having played off the shoulders of Norway libero Rune Bratseth, Papin reacted quickly to arrive at the misplaced header and fire a shot away from the edge of the 18 yard area. Thorstvedt had to save low by the near post and divert the ball away for a France right wing corner. Moments after, away captain Manuel Amoros got a left-footed shot away from 25 yards, and again Thorstvedt needed to save low down to his left, this time he’d avoid giving away another corner. The tone was set; France had demonstrated their intentions.
While France would involve several men in their build-up play, they would still shift the ball around at pace, and thus their attacking intent didn’t feel laboured. They were operating with a wide player along each flank, in addition to a support act for Papin up front in the shape of the exuberant Éric Cantona. Admittedly, he would not be hugely involved in the game’s early stages, but the exciting Montpellier forward would engage in play, often coming deep in order to interact with his midfielders. In drifting back, Cantona would be difficult for the Norwegians to pick up, as he was way too deep for their centre-backs to always attend to, whilst their central midfielders would need to battle it out with the French duo first and foremost.
In addition to that somewhat stealthy figure in the shape of Cantona, France had deployed two wingers with somewhat differing qualities and tactical features. Along the right was Jean-Marc Ferreri, who would time and again, and certainly here early doors, look in field to engage with some of their more central performers. Ferreri didn’t possess an awful amount of pace, but he was secure in possession, and appeared well capable of judging correctly when to pass and when to hold on to the ball. The nippy Christian Perez down the left hand side was more your typical winger, who would take his full-back on and try to deliever a cross into the box from advanced channel areas. There would be some interesting tussles between Perez and Norway’s right-sided defender Gunnar Halle. Indeed, it would be the 26 year old of PSG who would arrive next at a French opportunity, when he connected with Cantona’s square pass from the right hand side. Perez didn’t get a clean touch, but nevertheless did his effort strike the upright behind the Norwegian goalkeeper. Luckily for the hosts, the ball came straight back to Thorstvedt, who could fortuitously claim it. On seven minutes, you could not have argumented well against a French lead being deserved.
Hosts coming more into it
Norway have no wish to just sit back and watch their opponents attack, so they display some direct attacking intentions of their own. Italia1990.com have on a few occasions earlier in the qualification pointed out that the Norwegians have a relatively weak central midfield. On this occasion, though, they’ve swapped the previous pair of Ørjan Berg and Kjetil Osvold with two experienced campaigners in Sverre Brandhaug and Per Egil Ahlsen. The latter came into this qualification for the first time, but he was playing without any fear, going toe to toe with the French midfield in some often interesting battles.
There’s a robustness also about the Norwegian attack, which had two foreign based players in the shape of Jan Åge Fjørtoft and Jørn Andersen. Neither seemed to possess a whole lot of pace, but they were often the target for direct balls coming up from the back, as Norway would at times play it over their midfield. However, more often would it be the central midfielders who would be the source of their direct approach, as both Ahlsen and Brandhaug would attempt to find either of the front two, or indeed the diminutive Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen out along the left hand side. Jakobsen, popularly refered to as ‘Mini’ in his country for obvious reasons, had had a relatively bleak qualification campaign hitherto, but manager Ingvar Stadheim still appeared to have belief in him, and the winger would look to exploit whatever space France full-back Amoros left behind.
Looking to regain their composure, Norway had won a tenth minute right wing corner which would ultimately see Ahlsen fire a 25 yard effort a couple of storeys too high for Joël Bats’ goal. The France ‘keeper, who was often excelling in his shot-stopping, had perhaps a tendency to not always judge so well when to come for aerial balls, and on this occasion he had failed to come anywhere near Brandhaug’s flag kick, as there had been a duel in front of him. Bats had been out of position as the ball had arrived to Ahlsen, but alas, the 31 year old was unable to direct his effort underneath the bar.
The opening quarter of an hour had been lively, with both teams clearly wishing to opt for direct routes towards goal, albeit in differing manners. Surely, there were goals in this game.
It is clear that both teams are in 4-4-2, but their various interpretations of the formation make for an interesting tactical spectacle. Whilst the Norwegians have adopted a fairly pragmatic, straight-forward version, the French boast different ideas: They operate with their central midfield two, Bernard Pardo and Didier Deschamps, in roles where the former patrols the rear of midfield, whilst the energetic, enthusiastic Deschamps, only 20 years of age, has more freedom to participate inside the hosts’ half of the pitch. This appears to be a role which the Nantes man relishes, and his combative approach seems to suit the French style of play very well. Pardo, meanwhile, realizes that his inclusion is not due to his ability in possession, so he generally refrains from taking many touches.
Platini has started with the same eleven which had taken to the field in Sweden a fortnight earlier. Their tactical approach was based on much the same outline, involving central players and widemen alike. This would retain a level of continuity, something which did not appear to be unimportant after the year they’d endured until the Sweden friendly, where they’d failed to score in three attempts. Bats was the natural choice between the sticks, even if he did have certain limitations. He was good at quick delieveries, something which played a role once the French had regrouped and wanted to catch the opponents somewhat off-guard.
OM’s Franck Sauzée had played both in central midfield and as the right-sided alibi in 5-3-2 so far in the qualification, but Platini had switched him to a libero role before the journey to Sweden. This was again where the 23 year old was positioned, and on his ninth country appearance, Sauzée seemed to be playing with a high level of confidence. Alongside him in the heart of the defence was the colossal figure of Yvon Le Roux, who did not appear tremendously mobile, but this was perhaps not needed anyway against the robust Norwegian strike force. Instead, he would be making use of his physical attributes, predominantly coming up against Andersen.
Along the flanks, Platini had kept faith in the internationally experienced Amoros to the right. Still just 27 years of age, Amoros captained the side, and was by far their highest cap, with this his 63rd appearance. He’d been a regular feature already as a 20 year old during the 1982 World Cup, and boasted loads of experience. Famously known as an attacking full-back, he had also appeared along the left earlier in the qualification, but being right-footed, he was possibly more comfortable along this right hand side. Across from him was the long-haired Éric Di Meco, who had grown in stature at Marseille, and who had eventually made his full international debut at the age of 25 in Malmo. Di Meco was someone who liked to tackle, whilst he would also not be afraid to cross the halfway line, even if he was probably not as comfortable in possession as Amoros.
Another player with trailing hair was central midfield man Bernard Pardo of Bordeaux, 28 years of age. This was only his third international. He accepted that other players were of higher rank than him possession-wise, but he would battle all day long, making passage through midfield difficult for any opponent. He worked alongside the exciting prospect of Didier Deschamps, who had come on for his France debut during the 0-0 home qualifier against Yugoslavia in April, and who would be another combative performer in the centre of the pitch. Together the pair boasted plenty of energy, and they would be vital in breaking up play and shift the ball out into wide positions or for Cantona to pick up in more advanced positions. The 23 year old Montpellier forward had featured against the Norwegians in the qualification ahead of the 1988 European Championships, so he knew all about Bratseth and Kojedal, the hosts’ centre-back pairing.
Ferreri, Perez and Papin made up the final three in a relatively exciting line-up, and the latter seemed to thrive in such an environment, where he could exploit his strengths, which were getting in behind the opposing defence and working the goalkeeper. He’d done so already, and the Norwegians would have to pay close attention to him throughout. Papin had also struck the winner when these two had met in Paris last autumn.
The game has fine pace to it; there’s not a whole lot of unnecessary stops. Approaching the 25 minute mark, Norway’s Brandhaug hits a left wing corner which doesn’t even stay in play, exiting the field before reaching the near post. However, the Rosenborg midfielder had displayed one of his qualities when he’d hit it long into space for Fjørtoft only moments earlier. This was something which Norway would make more use of as the game progressed: direct balls into space. Amoros had paid close attention to the striker and managed to boot the ball away for that ultimately fruitless corner kick.
Whilst the visitors operated slightly unconventionally in their 4-4-2, the Norwegians had three straight banks of players, where the central defensive pairing of Rune Bratseth and Terje Kojedal were perhaps their star feature. With this Norway’s first qualifier without former captain Anders Giske, who had retired from international football, manager Stadheim had appointed Bratseth, the increasingly impressive Werder Bremen libero, as his new skipper. However, based on visuals alone, it could not be verified that Bratseth was the captain, as he sported no armband across either arm. The French match commentator, though, would on no less than four occasions point out that Bratseth was indeed the Norwegian captain, so this must be trusted. Other reports claim that his defensive partner Kojedal, formerly working in French football with Mulhouse and Valenciennes, was leading the side, but there’s also no evidence to back this up.
In goal, Norway were once again equipped with the tall Thorstvedt, who had been absent for their last qualifier. This was the Tottenham ‘keeper’s 55th appearance for his country, something which made him second only to Kojedal (63) among the current crop of players. He had an enormous reach, and as opposed to his French counterpart, Thorstvedt would lend a fair impression even in claiming high balls.
Without Giske along the left hand side defensively, the new player in this position was 19 year young Kongsvinger full-back Stig Inge Bjørnebye. He’d made his debut in the acclaimed 4-1 friendly win against Austria in May, and had also featured during the recent goalless Greece friendly. Possessing a strong left foot, Bjørnebye was not afraid to hit it long in aim for one of the forward players, and he would also appear sound defensively, especially in acting as cover for the centre-halves on a couple of occasions. Gunnar Halle across from him was becoming a familiar face at right-back by now, and he would need to be alert in dealing with the tricky Perez.
The duo in the centre of midfield was, as pointed out earlier, Brandhaug and Ahlsen, whilst Jakobsen worked along the left, ahead of Bjørnebye. There should be little doubt that trying to play him in behind the French right-back was an adopted piece of Norwegian tactics, whilst Karl-Petter Løken across from him in the right-sided midfield position would be more keen to try and take his man on in order to work himself into a favourable crossing position. Løken had begun the qualification optimistically, but had perhaps had less influence with time. He would often struggle to make an impact on Di Meco, but he would display his qualities on at least a couple of occasions, showing why Stadheim seemed to rate him highly. His crossing would let him down, though.
It was interesting seeing Jørn Andersen back in the line-up, as the West Germany based striker had been ignored in the ongoing qualification so far. However, upon regaining his goalscoring touch in the Bundesliga, he’d been given a chance to show his worth for his country. Unfortunately, he would rarely make it into goalscoring positions, often finding the rugged Le Roux a difficult proposition. His compatriot up top, Jan Åge Fjørtoft, seemed livelier, and the recently acquired Rapid Vienna striker would cause more problems for the opposition’s defence than Andersen. Some of his previously displayed antics, though, would still be on show, and falling over theatrically is hardly an impressive feature in a striker. Luckily, the Bulgarian referee did not buy into it. Let me hastily add that Fjørtoft didn’t do this as frequently as before.
Drop in quality
Around the half hour mark, the game’s at its lowest point of quality yet. There’s a few passes going astray from both sets of players, and the accuracy in passing is questionable. France do not stop trying to reach Papin, and when Ferreri attempts to thread the lone striker through on 33 minutes, the number 9 finds himself offside again. This goes to show how he operates right on the very offside line, trying to seize on any lingering or malpositioning from the home centre-backs. So far, though, Bratseth and Kojedal are doing well, even if they do live a somewhat marginal existence.
French wing play no longer works successfully, but at this point Cantona has started to engage in play more frequently, clearly seeing the benefits in dropping deep to pick the ball off his central midfielders. He had previously come tête-à-tête with Kojedal a few times, and with the Norwegian defender a cunning player after years working at an international level, these were not always feuds from which Cantona would escape with possession intact. In coming deeper, he would find time to turn up and look for either Papin or Perez, although the latter was also enjoying less fortune from Halle for the time being.
Penalty & goal
There is perhaps something of an irony in the fact that Jakobsen makes himself guilty of conceding a penalty on 39 minutes, when he’s been the more inventive Norwegian player inside the French half. It had happened a few times already that he had received the ball along the left in useful positions, often played in by his team mate at club level Brandhaug, and he would attempt to look for Fjørtoft inside him, or even cross towards the far end of the area, where Andersen would generally be found. However, they’d failed to create openings which had truly put Bats to the test, even if some promise had been there.
Still, Jakobsen can’t quite escape a scapegoat tag when he rather unnecessarily stops Papin irregularly in reaching the byline to the right inside the area, after picking up Perez’ cross from the left. The Norway winger had both tripped and caught the France number 9 with an outstretched arm, and though Jakobsen did look in disbelief when the decision had been made, it was a correct one. Papin dispatched his second penalty beyond Thorstvedt’s reach of the current qualification campaign, and with the ball finding its way into the bottom left corner of the goal, France find themselves a goal to the good. It is probably just reward for their first half performance altogether.
Through to half time
Towards the end of the half, Norway finally arrive at their best opportunity yet, and actually manage to test Bats. It happens when they are awarded a left wing corner, and as Bats fails to convincingly deal with the flag kick, only punching it to Jakobsen just inside the area, the wide midfielder heads it diagonally towards the right corner of the six yard area where Andersen is. Rather than head goalwards from a difficult angle and without being able to get any pace on the ball, the striker heads it back across goal, where Kojedal connects from six yards out, only to see his header in turn saved by the diving Bats. The goalkeeper probably made it look like a bigger opportunity than it actually was, even if a stronger header could’ve caused severe problems.
France could possibly now lay deeper collectively and look for opportunities on the counter, which they certainly had players capable of doing. Even if Ferreri along the right wasn’t the paciest player in the side, he would be found in possession when the French wanted to turn their hosts over, and equipped with an eye for a pass, he could play in either of Papin, Cantona or even Perez. However, it would be a forward header towards Cantona from Deschamps which would create a massive opportunity for the visitors to move even further ahead right on the stroke of half time. In a clever bit of thinking, Cantona let the ball go, something which deceived Bratseth, and all of a sudden Ferreri found himself in the clear, and decided to take the ball round Thorstvedt. He did well, and even got a shot away towards the empty net, only to see Bratseth miraculously recover to boot the ball away for a corner before it could reach goal. It was a goal-saving intervention by the Norway captain, leaving the hosts with a hope to rescue something from the game after all.
Half-time. One apiece.
With the teams reappearing for the start of the second half, there’s no immediate changes for either side. This could mean that both managers had been relatively satisfied with how the first half had panned out, even if Norway were hardly content at being a goal down in a home fixture.
As for the French, well, they could perhaps begin to hope for miracles elsewhere if they managed to see off the Norway threat until full time? Of course, keeping on to the two points would have to be their first priority, and it was a lead which their first half display had warranted, even if they had not had it all their way. There had been some periods of mediocre quality as well, even if they could all but have wrapped the win up if Ferreri had tucked away his glorious opportunity just before the break.
To get the second half rolling were the two French forwards: Cantona to Papin, and off we go.
More inspired hosts
Early in the final 45 minutes, it certainly does appear as if Norway are willing to take a greater level of risk in order to bring back balance to the scoreline. They seem to be pushing their defensive line somewhat higher up, and at times one can see Kojedal step out of the back four in order to close down Cantona, who yet again prefers to come deep in order to participate in build-ups. This is a particularly daring move by the hosts, as it leaves Bratseth more or less alone in the centre of their defence, although it must be added that both full-backs are doing their part in covering towards the centre when Kojedal has pushed ahead in search for Cantona.
Also, the visitors seem to be playing slightly deeper than they were during the first half, perhaps with a view to attempt hitting the Norwegians on the break. Especially Pardo now appears to be sitting further back the pitch, almost acting as a shield in front of their two central defenders. France will indeed look for quick breaks in these early stages of the second period, and it will happen through either wide man or in looking for Papin through the centre. Cantona does find him with a raking ball forward on 55 minutes, as Kojedal is momentarily out of position, and Papin is in behind him, although he’s being closed down by Bratseth, making him rush his effort from inside the area a little. The shot’s low and straight into the arms of Thorstvedt. France do find inspired hosts, though, so it is difficult to say whether the visitors sitting deeper is a deliberate act, or whether they’re actually being pushed back by more aggressive host players.
The Norwegian players seem to be playing with greater belief all of a sudden, perhaps inspired after Jakobsen had had a header at goal inside 32 seconds of the restart. Nothing troublesome, but at least something to set the tone, much like the French had done in the first half. They also look to engage Løken along the right, something which had generally eluded them during the opening half, and he’d managed to arrive in a crossing position already, even though it had not brought about anything in front of goal.
Just after 55 minutes comes the first substitution of the game: Big France centre-back Le Roux had had several big challenges against both Norwegian frontmen, and he had appeared to take a knock towards the latter stages of the half. However, as he had come back out on to the pitch after the interval, it had not appeared to be anything serious. And it was not really noticeable until you saw Franck Silvestre do some warm-up exercises out on the touchline. Even then, though, you were not convinced whether Le Roux had actually come off because of an injury or due to tactical reasons. This was the 56th minute, and would you know, he had come off the pitch during the third place play-off game in the 1986 World Cup at exactly the same time. Odd coincidence. This was 22 year old Silvestre of Sochaux’ third international since his debut in Dublin back in the February 0-0 friendly draw with the Republic of Ireland. Silvestre was quicker than Le Roux, though less robust, even if he seemed to possess a fine level of agility. Could he pick up where Le Roux had left off?
The hosts have definitely stepped up since the break, and are in the ascendancy. The French are too often guilty of transporting the ball rather than make use of excessive space, which appears to be there for the taking. Ferreri and Cantona are the main culprits, even if the latter also does have ingenuity about him; he appears to be looking for the right moment to release Papin.
As France fail to take any of the counter-attacking opportunities which certainly are there for them, Norway start producing efforts at goal instead. They conjure a fine chance for Fjørtoft, who is played through by Brandhaug. He’s in behind the French defence, albeit somewhat to the right, and he is unable to get the right direction behind his shot on 59 minutes. His low, diagonal effort clears Bats’ upright by a couple of yards. A minute later, Ahlsen gets the ball rolled out to him outside the area, but he has to strike with his weaker left foot, and it is blocked. It has been a busy start to Silvestre’s third cap. He has been seen marking both Andersen and Fjørtoft. Is he a tad confused so far?
Opportunities on the break
Despite the fact that they’ve not quite appeared so far in the second half, you are left with a positive feeling from this French équipe. They had higher energy levels than the team which had begun the qualification, and this was particularly noticed through their core, especially in centre midfield. The young Deschamps, despite second half struggles, had been an upgrade to anything which we’d seen earlier, and perhaps was it owed in equal parts to the role and to the player. France had often had a somewhat tepid playmaker with little pace in the central role. A two-way man like the tenacious Deschamps seemed a good fit, at least now under Platini.
Again, the visitors were presented with a counter-attacking opportunity with 28-29 minutes still left. This time it would spell danger to the hosts, who had Bratseth laying momentarily injured inside the French half, and les bleus would take advantage of the numerical disorder in the home ranks. Cantona spread a delicious pass out towards the right, where Ferreri took on Bjørnebye, drew him inside, and then played a neat little return pass for Cantona, who had made it into an advanced position. The Montpellier forward had both Papin and Perez to aim for in the centre, and had he only managed to get his pass beyond Kojedal, the likelihood of a second French goal would’ve been great. As it were, the hosts were still in it, due to the remaining centre half’s intervention. You were often left with a feeling in the second half that the French were just a whisker away from gleefully accepting one of these counters to move further ahead. This had been the closest yet.
Norway looking decent
With the second half midway point arriving, the game’s dropped somewhat in pace and intensity, but Norway will have felt that they’ve put in a fine shift since the break, and they’re far from out of it yet; the chance of a point remains. Perhaps are they resting and regrouping for the time being, looking to bounce back with some further collective pressure shortly.
The hosts’ midfield has also been upgraded since the less meaty performances with Osvold and Berg in there. Ahlsen has been astray a couple of times through his passing, but in general he is sound in possession, orientates himself well, and keeps it simple unless he wants to play a long pass into space. Brandhaug also has his moments, and his vision challenges the French defensive, as he often plays the ball on with the use of one or two touches, looking to catch the opponent off-guard. His prefered pass is into space along the left, for either Fjørtoft or Jakobsen. Neither central player is equipped with excessive pace, but as long as the game tempo is no longer that high, they can compete well with the French pair.
Since the French have been sitting deeper, though, there’s no longer space for Jakobsen to take advantage of down the left hand side, and whilst Norway’s number 9 had been one of their busier player in the opening half, his influence has since disappeared. Amoros keeps him in check. There’s also distinctively little wide play along the right, where the visitors have largely managed to nullify the threat from Løken through some aggressive full-back play from Di Meco, and you’re left with a feeling that the hosts will need to hatch a plan to involve their wingers to a greater extent. Balls through a congested centre seem to have little hope in breaking the deadlock.
France appear to be in control
Second half opportunities are now at a minimum. There is little in the game as we’re approaching 75 minutes which suggests that Norway are about to pull the trigger. France are feeling comfortable, and are even allowed to collectively move higher up the pitch with little fear of being exposed at the back. In the centre of their defence, Sauzée is having a steady game; the libero has no intentions of participating inside the opponents’ half of the pitch. Sauzée focuses on his defensive duties. He executes an excellent tackle on Fjørtoft 22 yards out after Pardo’s had a lapse in concentration, giving the ball away unnecessary inside his own half. As for Silvestre, he’s grown into the contest, having been given time to settle, and he had picked up where Le Roux left: in attending to Andersen.
Another player which has left a fine impression, especially as the game’s progressed, has been Cantona. In the second half, he has had plenty of space, especially when he’s not been directly targeted by Kojedal, and he has been the France go-to man when they’ve wanted to find someone higher up the pitch who could accept possession, take a look around, see what’s needed next. He would engage in little triangles, and his highly advanced technique often saw him escape from tight situations with the ball intact. He also had decent physique, and would give even the Norwegian centre-backs a fight in the air, at least when he was bothered.
There’s changes being made by both teams just after the 75 minute mark: Norway make a double substitution, realizing that their efforts have gone stale, and they quickly need to spark some life back into the contest if their hopes of avoiding a second successive qualification home defeat are to live on. Off comes midfielder Brandhaug and striker Fjørtoft. Perhaps is it a little surprising to see the latter substituted, as he’s possibly done better than his partner Andersen, though with Brandhaug you suspect that it is a case of fresh feet needed. On come midfielder Ørjan Berg and domestic based second tier striker Simen Agdestein. In the French camp, it is Ferreri who comes off in order to be replaced by Laurent Blanc. The same switch had been made in the Sweden friendly, and Blanc had come on to good effect along the right in that fixture, playing his part in the fourth goal. Ferreri had done well enough, featuring as a wide outlet on the counter.
In the minutes after the flurry of substitutions, there continues to be little cohesion to the game, something which suits the visitors just fine. There’s also a lengthy break due to treatment of Sauzée, who’s gone down to the right outside his own area after he’d gone to ground heavily upon taking an aerial tumble on top of Agdestein. Cantona had eventually played the ball across the touchline for the defender to receive some attention, and sportingly, the Norwegians would return the ball to the French through Halle’s throw once Sauzée was ok to resume and play could continue. Earlier in the half, the French had done the same after Bratseth’s injury and medical attention. This was not something which you’d take for granted, and both times it was applauded by the Ullevål crowd.
On 84 minutes, there’s finally something to cheer for the faithfuls in the stands. Granted, there were perhaps a couple hundred French supporters camped in one of the sections, and they won’t have been best pleased, but if they were looking for scapegoats, they’d have their man in goalkeeper Bats. Inexplicably, he’d let substitute Berg’s left wing corner right through his gloves, and with the majestic Bratseth having risen behind him, the Norway captain must have felt very fortunate to connect, even being able to direct his header to the bottom left of the French goal, so that Amoros, who guarded that post, could not deflect it away to safety. Bats had earlier in the game failed to display authority in several aerial situations, though this time around he’d not even been challenged. He’d just failed dramatically in collecting. Norway were level. 1-1.
Big, late opportunities
The final few minutes would see some frantic play, and even massive opportunities for further goals. Indeed, France do have the ball in the back of the net on 88 minutes, though it is ruled out for a marginal offside against Papin. Had the goal been allowed to stand, the Norwegians could just have had themselves to blame, as Halle could only clear the ball poorly into the feet of Cantona. Accepting the invitation, the forward moved goalwards from 28 yards out, and with just Halle between himself and goal, he played in Papin to his left. Unfortunately, or rather through lack of discipline, the OM man had advanced a couple of inches too far and was off when Cantona’s pass came. They would only realize when Papin had fed the ball back to his forward partner, and finding the back of an almost empty net, just guarded by Bratseth, had been a simple task. Goal ruled out, though.
What happens on the stroke of 90 minutes, is that Deschamps somehow switches completely off as Løken hits a hopeful up and under into the area. How Deschamps had failed to identify Berg as a threat is almost as inexplicable as Bats’ error for the equalizer, but perhaps had he thought that his ‘keeper was coming out to claim it? As it were, Bats was far from attacking the ball, which landed a few yards inside the area. The only player there was Berg, who had made a fine run, and he was able to take it down and pull the trigger, only to see his shot completely mishit, something which made it an easy task to deal with for Bats eventually. However, neither Bats nor Deschamps could’ve known that Berg would misfire badly. France were fortunate to still be level. It had been a colossal opportunity.
Just before Berg’s chance, Sauzée had fired a free-kick from 28 yards a few storeys too high, and even a minute into injury time, Norway break along the right, with Løken finally in plenty of space after Agdestein’s cross field pass. He rushes down the channel, puts the cross in, looking for Andersen, but Pardo had made a fine recovery run and was able to boot it away to safety. A minute and 43 seconds into time added on, the sound Bulgarian referee would signal an end to proceedings.
France had had the better of the first half, when they’d displayed some flexibility in their play, looking strong right across the pitch. They were playing with plenty of energy, and would pin the hosts back for spells. There were few clear opportunities created, though, and they’d need a penalty to move in front, with Papin doing the same to Thorstvedt as he had done in Parc des Princes less than a year earlier. Then Ferreri should’ve added a second when he was clean through and having rounded Thorstvedt, only to see Bratseth appear out of nowhere to clear on the goalline.
The visitors would retract in the second half, looking to hit the hosts on the counter. It was a tactic which could’ve worked, although they failed to accept several opportunities to break and put the game to bed. There was not enough accuracy inside the attacking half. Norway enjoyed more of the ball, but they created little in terms of chances. Ultimately, they’d have to rely on an inexplicable error from the experienced Bats, and Bratseth rose to head home his second goal of the qualification. They could even have won it through Berg late on, just like France could’ve added their second had Papin not moved offside from Cantona’s pass.
An enjoyable game. France looked sound; Norway looked improved. Shared spoils was probably just about the right outcome.
1 Thorstvedt 7.2
steady and unspectacular. Saved when he had to, claimed from the air when asked. Little chance with the penalty
2 Halle 7.0
tough-tackling full-back who was at times in trouble when he came up against the nippy Perez. Offered an outlet in coming forward, though combinations with Løken were few and far between
3 Kojedal 7.1
strong both in challenge and in possession, but sometimes his positioning caused his team trouble defensively
4 Bratseth 7.6
in addition to heading home the equalizer, he tidied up at the back with his immense pace, and he contributed in coming forward. Very good game from a player of ever increasing stature
5 Bjørnebye 7.1
a resilient performance from the teenager, who showed no fear, and whose passing game was decent, especially in hitting it long with his excellent left foot. Always made Ferreri move inside
6 Løken 6.7
seemed to do well against Di Meco initially, but would struggle as the game wore on. Also not as frequently used as could’ve been hoped on his part
7 Brandhaug 7.0
displayed fine vision on occasions, and seemed to often look for Jakobsen. Not the strongest defensively. Appeared to tire, and probably hence the substitution
(15 Berg –
came on to add some energy. Hit the corner which brought the equalizer, and should’ve scored a late winner. Good cameo)
8 Ahlsen 7.2
excellent range of passing. Also had a knack of escaping with the ball in tight situations. Struggled for pace when France opted to break quickly
9 Jakobsen 7.1
enjoyed the first 45, when he was found in space along the left. Combined well with Fjørtoft, and Brandhaug would often find him with diagonal balls. His close control even appeared to have improved. Declined performance wise in the final 45, when he had less space to work in
10 Andersen 6.9
strong in the air, and was a match for both Le Roux and his successor. Could not threaten goal, though
11 Fjørtoft 6.8
would look to support Jakobsen to the left, and caused some problems with his step-overs and unpredictability. Alas, he hasn’t lost the desire to go to ground easily. No proper goal threat
(16 Agdestein –
did not quite seem up to the level, even if he was eager enough)
1 Bats 6.2
very dodgy with his aerial contribution, and must accept responsibility for the equalizer, as he somehow could not claim a simple corner unchallenged
2 Amoros 6.9
positioning a weak point as he allowed Jakobsen plenty of first half space. Was indeed a weapon coming forward, and worked well in tandem with Ferreri on the break
3 Di Meco 6.8
did look to have a few problems against Løken initially, but would raise his game, and his aggression saw him strike fear into his opponent. Forward contribution was unimpressive and unaccurate
4 Le Roux 6.9
a good match with the Norwegian strikers through his size, though he did find it difficult to win in the air. His limited mobility didn’t cause him or his team too much trouble. Probably carried a knock as he was replaced
(13 Silvestre 7.0
less commanding than the player whom he replaced, but quicker and more agile, and was able to fend off the threat from the Norway strikers even if he seemed a little bewildered right after coming on)
5 Sauzée 7.5
the libero stuck to his defensive task until after the equalizer. Fine positioning, and was not afraid to go into combat with the physical opposition strikers. Lead the defensive line well
6 Pardo 7.2
very inspirational with his tenacity, and wisely kept himself in the background once France were in possession
7 Deschamps 7.3
first half was almost a textbook two-way performance in the heart of the pitch, and his industry and labour helped visitors win midfield battle. Sitting deeper after the break didn’t suit him equally, but still he could take pride from this performance
8 Perez 7.1
tricky wing performance against a sturdy full-back in Halle, whom he would take on several times. Not always successful, but showed some intelligent runs, and was something of a threat along the left with his pace
9 Papin 7.3
played right on the offside line throughout, and caused the Norwegian defence some concern with his movement. Pulled the trigger on several occasions, and drew saves from the ‘keeper. Tucked away his penalty neatly
10 Ferreri 7.1
would often look in field for options, at least early on. As the game wore on, he combined well with Amoros coming from behind him, though he would rarely challenge towards the byline
(14 Blanc –
brought on for added aerial strength, and did what was asked of him. No presence coming forward this time around)
11 Cantona 7.4
showed plenty of delightful touches, and opened up the Norwegian defence with some imaginative creative play. Thrived when coming deep, though he didn’t always enjoy confrontations with Kojedal