Norway had not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1938 World Cup, where they’d bowed out to eventual winners Italy in the first round after a 2-1 defeat. They had finished bottom of their five team strong qualification group ahead of both the two previous World Cup tournaments, although they did rarely lose by great margins. In qualification for the two most recent European Championship tournaments, they had indeed also finished propping up their group, so to claim that Norway were challengers for a berth in Italia ’90 would’ve been a bold statement.
In qualification for the 1988 European Championships, Norway had twice suffered defeat against fellow Nordic minnows Iceland, something which must have been a compete humiliation. There had been a positive experience in beating reigning World Cup bronze medalists France 2-0 on home soil in June ’87, but that had been the departing shot for retiring national team manager through more than nine years, Tor Røste Fossen. The succeeding tenureship of Swedish boss Tord Grip was pretty much an ill-fated one, as he gained no victory from seven attempts, and he was subsequently replaced by Norway U21 manager Ingvar Stadheim. It was Stadheim’s task to lead the Norwegian select into the ’90 qualification.
The Norwegian domestic league consisted of part-timers and semi-professionals, and they rarely caused much stir internationally. However, the international team benefitted from having some quite talented and skillful players abroad, even if numbers were far from as great as those of near neighbours Sweden and Denmark, two countries with a considerably greater international pedigree.
Coming into the World Cup qualification ahead of Italia ’90, the Norwegians would probably put their greatest faith in players such as goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt, a 25 year old who had not succeeded in claiming a first team berth during a short spell with West German Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach a couple of years earlier. He was currently with Swedish greats IFK Gothenburg. Defensively, they had a lovely prospect in the tall and speedy Rune Bratseth, a player proving his credentials relatively late in his career, albeit at this point he was still only 27. In midfield, there was the skillful Tom Sundby, another 27 year old, who was currently plying his trade in Greek football with Iraklis of Thessaloniki. It seemed likely that the manager would build his team around those three.
The Norwegians had struggled for goals at international level for a long time. 24 goals in 30 qualifiers throughout the 80s should be indication of that exact problem. However, there were some promising signs among the current crop of forwards, where players such as Rosenborg’s Gøran Sørloth, Lillestrøm’s Jan Åge Fjørtoft were beginning to look the part. The greatest promise still was probably with Bundesliga ace Jørn Andersen, who had only just moved from Nuremberg to Eintracht Frankfurt. He had so far not made a great impact on the national team, with just three goals to show for from his 17 appearances.
Domestically, Trondheim club Rosenborg were on course for the league title. The Norwegian season was (and is still) played by the calendar year, and they looked set to follow up their manager Nils Arne Eggen’s surprise title success with Moss the previous year. Eggen was emerging as an exciting manager with attacking ideas, and he was also in charge of the Norwegian Olympic select.
The appointment of Stadheim as manager had happened prior to a 1-1 July friendly with the Brazil Olympic team. The game had perhaps not ended with a win for the Norwegians, but the spectators had finally been treated to some inspirational attacking play, something which had not been the case during Grip’s tenure. Could the 37 year old manager build on that performance and cause an upset or two in the forthcoming qualification? First up would be Scotland on home soil, after another home friendly: against Bulgaria in August.
Friendly: Norway 1-1 Brazil
Line-up: Thorstvedt – Solér, Bratseth, Johnsen, Halle – Løken (Bachke 81), Brandhaug (c), Sundby, Osvold – Sørloth, Fjørtoft (Fjærestad 73)
Friendly: Norway 1-1 Bulgaria
Line-up: Thorstvedt – Halle, Bratseth, Johnsen, Giske (c) – Osvold, Brandhaug, Sundby (Løken 49), Jakobsen – Sørloth, Andersen (Fjørtoft 80)
Qualifier 1: Norway 1-2 Scotland
14.09.1988, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Line-up (4-4-2): Thorstvedt – Henriksen, Johnsen, Bratseth, Giske (c) – Løken, Brandhaug, Sundby (Berg 4) (Jakobsen 85), Osvold – Sørloth, Fjørtoft
Despite losing influental midfield man Sundby to a horrific early injury, Norway are in the ascendancy early, and they cause their visitors some trouble through Løken along the right. However, they are rocked by a 15 minute goal for the visitors, and despite still playing some neat stuff in the first half, they can’t quite get going again like they’d started. Norway do manage to find an equalizer following a set-piece, from where they would often look threatening, but in the second half they never quite got out of the Scottish grip on the game. When the visitors scored their second of the evening, an equalizer rarely looked to be on the cards.
Qualifier 2: France 1-0 Norway
28.09.1988, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Line-up (5-3-2): Thorstvedt – Henriksen (Halle 77), Johnsen, Bratseth, Kojedal, Giske (c) – Berg, Brandhaug, Osvold (Gulbrandsen 81) – Sørloth, Jakobsen
Norway fall to their second straight qualification defeat as they try to defend their way to a point. They concede possession from the offset, but their strong central defensive unit do not allow the French much space. In the second half, Norway need Thorstvedt to keep them in the game on a few occasions, even if they themselves come desperately close to breaking the deadlock when Jakobsen’s cross from the right finds Osvold’s head in the centre ten minutes into the second half: It takes a reflex stop from Bats to keep it out. Ultimately, Norway are done when captain Giske, sporting a late thigh injury, fells Bravo in the area for Papin to strike home a penalty.
Friendly: Italy 2-1 Norway
Goal: Brandhaug (pen.)
Line-up (5-3-2): Thorstvedt – Løken, Herlovsen, Bratseth, Kojedal, Halle – Gulbrandsen, Brandhaug (c), Osvold – Sørloth (Jakobsen 64), Agdestein (Rekdal 79)
Norway hold little fear for their more illustrious hosts, but find themselves two goals down following a penalty and a free-kick. They get a first half goal back with a penalty of their own, but fail to put the Italians to the sword after the break. Bratseth was behind both free-kicks which led to the hosts’ goals, and Norway posed little threat in open play. However, attacking set-pieces meant Italy were never completely confident.
Qualifier 3: Cyprus 0-3 Norway
02.11.1988, Tsíreio Stádio (Limassol)
Goals: Sørloth 2, Osvold
Line-up (5-3-2): Thorstvedt – Løken, Herlovsen, Bratseth, Kojedal, Halle – Gulbrandsen, Brandhaug (c), Osvold – Sørloth, Agdestein
Sadly, there is no photo evidence available from this game, and so we only have been able to collect sparse information about proceedings. However, a newspaper report from a Norwegian regional newspaper, kindly offered to us by @RetroSportNorge, appears to tell a tale of some quite intense pressure from the hosts the first half hour. Cyprus would then turn frustrated as their efforts failed to yield any goals, and in the second half Sørloth twice found the net to set the Norwegians up for their first win of the qualification. Midfielder Osvold added a late third.
Friendly: Czechoslovakia 3-2 Norway
Goals: Sørloth, Agdestein
Line-up: By Rise (Thorstvedt 15) – Løken, Pedersen, Ahlsen, Salte, Halle – Gulbrandsen (Mordt 48), Brandhaug (c), Rekdal (Jakobsen 70) – Sørloth, Agdestein
Friendly: Greece 4-2 Norway
Goals: Bratseth, Sørloth
Line-up (3-5-2): By Rise – Bratseth, Kojedal, Giske (c) – Løken, Gulbrandsen, Osvold, Berg, Halle – Sørloth (Fjørtoft 84), Agdestein (‘Mini’ Jakobsen 69)
Friendly: Norway 0-3 Poland
Line-up: Thorstvedt – Halle (Løken h-t), Kojedal, Bratseth, Giske (c), Mordt – Berg, Rekdal (Gulbrandsen 66), Osvold – Sørloth, Fjørtoft (Håberg 66)
Qualifier 4: Norway 3-1 Cyprus
21.05.1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Goals: Khristodoulou (own goal), Sørloth, Bratseth
Line-up (4-4-2): Thorstvedt – Halle, Bratseth, Kojedal, Giske (c) – Løken, Osvold, Berg (Gulbrandsen 83), Jakobsen – Sørloth (Agdestein 60), Fjørtoft
It was back to basics and 4-4-2 for Norway after a spell with five at the back. They were the better team throughout, but they failed to provide much creativity, especially from their central midfield, and the three first half goals apart, they did not cause many problems to the visiting defence, something which must have been a disappointment. Still, they had two centre-backs performing well, and ultimately they did what was expected from them against an opponent sitting very deep. This should reward them with plenty of interest for their home fixture with the Yugoslavs next month.
B friendly: Norway B 0-1 England B
22.05.1989, Stavanger (Stavanger stadion)
Line-up (4-4-2): By Rise (c) (Olsen HT) – Hansen, Tangen, Bjerkeland (Halvorsen 78′), Bjørnebye – J.E. Pedersen, Ingebrigtsen, Torvanger (Klepp HT), Fjetland – Amundsen (E. Pedersen 71′), Håberg.
Friendly: Norway 4-1 Austria
Goals: Halle, Fjørtoft, Løken, Kojedal
Line-up (4-4-2): By Rise – Halle, Johnsen, Kojedal (c), Bjørnebye – Løken (Gulbrandsen 65), Berg, Osvold, Jakobsen – Sørloth, Fjørtoft (Agdestein 73)
Played out in a cold Oslo spring afternoon in front of a desperately small crowd and on a poor pitch, Norway took advantage of some truly slack Austrian defending. Back-up ‘keeper Ola By Rise played in Thorstvedt’s absence, and 19 year young Stig Inge Bjørnebye got his debut at left-back as there was no Giske (or Mordt). Bratseth was also absent, with 22 year old Erland Johnsen coming back into the team. Halle scored into an empty net after a fine Løken run, Fjørtoft got his head to a Lindenberger rebound for the second, then there was a left-footed finish from Løken, via Degeorgi, after Jakobsen’s fine run into the area, and finally a tap-in from Kojedal after a missed Aigner clearance. Løken, man of the match, came off with a not so serious injury, and was replaced wide right by Gulbrandsen.
Qualifier 5: Norway 1-2 Yugoslavia
14.06.1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Friendly: Norway 0-0 Greece
Line-up: Thorstvedt – Hansen, Kojedal (c), Johnsen, Bjørnebye – Løken, Berg (Jakobsen h-t), Osvold, Mordt (Brandhaug h-t) – Sørloth, Fjørtoft
Qualifier 6: Norway 1-1 France
05.09.1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Line-up (4-4-2): Thorstvedt – Halle, Bratseth (c), Kojedal, Bjørnebye – Løken, Brandhaug (Berg 76), Ahlsen, Jakobsen – Andersen, Fjørtoft (Agdestein 76)
Norway were in need of a boost having lost to Yugoslavia, but it didn’t look likely as they were up against an improved French team. Fortunate to be just a goal down at half time, Norway improved after the break, as they were generously allowed to build confidence through possession as the visitors opted to sit back. The strong Bratseth would claim a late equalizer from a goalkeeping error after substitute Berg’s corner. Uplifting performance after all.
Qualifier 7: Yugoslavia 1-0 Norway
11.10.1989, Olimpijski Stadion (Sarajevo)
Friendly: Kuwait 2-2 Norway
Qualifier 8: Scotland 1-1 Norway
15.11.1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Final position: 4 (out of 5)
Total record: 8 2 2 4 10-9 6
Home record: 4 1 1 2 6-6 3
Away record: 4 1 1 2 4-3 3
Number of players used:
Number of players including unused substitutes:
Ever-presents (720 mins):
– game by game
|Player||Sco (h)||Fra (a)||Cyp (a)||Cyp (h)||Yug (h)||Fra (h)||Yug (a)||Sco (a)|
04.02.1990 Norway 3-2 South Korea (Valletta, Malta)
07.02.1990 Malta 1-1 Norway
27.03.1990 Northern Ireland 2-3 Norway
06.06.1990 Norway 1-2 Denmark