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. Read more . . .
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
It was an experimental line-up for the Norwegians two days after their qualification win in Cyprus. Stadheim gave debuts to both Tor Pedersen (Tromsø) and Leif Rune Salte (Bryne), both centre-backs, and so we have every reason to believe that this was indeed another game in 5-3-2. Goalkeeper By Rise was knocked out in a challenge with Griga for the first goal and had to be replaced. There were also rare starting opportunities for midfielders Rekdal (19) and Gulbrandsen, as well as striker Agdestein, who scored the only goal of the second half when he capitalized on a mistake by Chovanec.
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 (Jakobsen 69)
A relatively strong select conceded three times in eight second half minutes to go down heavily to an otherwise unimpressive Greek side. Bratseth’s equalizer for 1-1 was his first in country colours.
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)
A fairly strong Norway team were undone from left-back Mordt’s dreadful backpass, which set the visitors up for the first goal. A poor defensive header from Bratseth and then a late long distance shot which Thorstvedt failed to keep out made sure of a heavy home loss in their final friendly ahead of the Cyprus home qualifier.
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)
Line-up (4-4-2): By Rise – Halle, Kojedal, Bratseth, Giske (c) – Løken, Berg (Gulbrandsen 83), Osvold, Jakobsen – Sørloth (Agdestein 63), Fjørtoft
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
Test ahead of France game. Unusual full-back pairing, though teenager Bjørnebye is looking to stake his claim for a regular spot with Giske having retired. Again the unimpressive midfield combination of Berg and Osvold was tried out. Rare appearance for left-sided full-back Mordt under Stadheim, and it looks like he could’ve featured to the left in midfield. It is a result which would not have done much to promote excitement ahead of their next qualifier in two weeks’ time.
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)
Line-up (4-4-2): Thorstvedt – Halle, Bratseth (c), Kojedal, Bjørnebye – Løken, Brandhaug, Ahlsen, Jakobsen – Andersen (Sørloth 72), Fjørtoft
An identical line-up to the one which had begun the France game last month took to the field, and Norway were for large portions of the game on par with their more illustrious opponents. However, the game had some incidents which would play their parts in the final outcome: Yugoslavia had midfielder Baždarević sent off early for spitting at the referee. Somehow, this made the Turkish official feel the need to make compensation towards the hosts, and for example, Norway had a valid goal inexplicably called off on the half hour. They too went a man down when Halle got a second booking early in the final period, and a fine Jakobsen shot from inside the area apart, they failed to trouble Ivković. Another ‘honourable’ defeat.
Friendly: Kuwait 2-2 Norway
Goals: Sørloth, Fjørtoft
Line-up: By Rise – Halle, Johnsen, Kojedal (c), Bjørnebye – Gulbrandsen, Ahlsen, Skammelrsud (Riisnæs h-t), Jakobsen (Bohinen 11) – Sørloth, Fjørtoft
Norway came back from a two goal deficit to gain a friendly draw. They gave a full international debut to second tier Frigg midfielder Bent Skammelsrud (one appearance for the Olympic team nearly two years earlier), and then to two further midfielders who were brought on as substitutes in Vålerenga’s Lars Bohinen and Kongsvinger’s Dag Riisnæs. Both Sørloth and Fjørtoft’s goals were their third of the calendar year, making them Norway’s joint top 1989 goalscorers.
Qualifier 8: Scotland 1-1 Norway
15.11.1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Line-up (5-3-2): Thorstvedt – Hansen, Johnsen, Kojedal (Halvorsen 83), Bratseth (c), Bjørnebye – Gulbrandsen, Ahlsen, Skammelsrud (Bohinen 59) – Sørloth, Fjørtoft
With various midfielders unavailable to him, Norway manager Stadheim had returned to a five man defensive line for this their final qualifier. The sturdy trio of Johnsen, Kojedal and captain Bratseth would physically contain the Scottish strikers, but collectively Norway were inferior to dominant hosts. They had ‘keeper Thorstvedt to thank for several fine stops, and particularly in midfield the Hampden visitors had struggled, with qualification debutant Skammelsrud a mere passenger, and with Gulbrandsen also looking out of his depth. Having conceded on the stroke of half time, Norway would conjure up an unlikely equalizer through Johnsen in inury time to deny Scotland a win, but it was still not enough to help France in the battle for second place.
Number of players used: 26
Number of players including unused substitutes: 32
Ever-presents (720 mins): 1 (Bratseth)
Leading goalscorer: Sørloth (3)
Yellow/red cards: 5/1
– game by game
|Player||Sco (h)||Fra (a)||Cyp (a)||Cyp (h)||Yug (h)||Fra (h)||Yug (a)||Sco (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average rating||Number of rated games|
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