ULLEVAAL (VG) Ståle Solbakken (54) doesn’t care much because he fared worse than many of his predecessors. But he admits that the national team could be in a better place.
Including a brutal defeat against Serbia at Ullevaal, Solbakken led Norway in 20 matches. It resulted in 11 wins, four draws, and five losses.
Åge Hareide, Nils Johan Semb, Drillo (second term) and Lars Lagerbäck were Solbakken’s best “point averages” at the same stage in their roles as national team managers.
Where does Project Solbakken stand after 20 matches?
– As long as you can’t get out of not winning crucial games, it’s going to be the same story again. It will only be “almost”. They have to take a new approach. It’s a bit scary that Norway has a much tougher road ahead in the EC qualifiers with two stronger teams. There are challenging matches to be played, answers Åge Hareide.
He made a quick start as a coach for the national team 18 years ago and produced the best performance ever in his first 20 matches. But there is reason to point out that the Nations League was not introduced and that Norway played several special international matches in Hared’s first year.
But Norway lost only one of his first 20 matches. In match number 21, the Haredi national team played in 2005 0-0 against future world champion Italy in Olival.
Stoll Solbakken’s score could have taken it with both hands on Tuesday night. A negative performance on Tuesday night would have given Norway a group win, a promotion to the Nations League and an additional chance to qualify for Euro 2024, not least of which is seeded Norway in the second tier in the European Championship draw on October 9.
– No, 20 games, it’s really not relevant at all. It’s about getting to the playoffs. If you have two points more or less compared to another coach in another era, it’s completely meaningless, says Ståle Solbakken.
The national team manager spoke to VG on Wednesday, after a night of little sleep and Norway-Serbia in the scoring.
How would you sum up the first 20 matches?
I think we are a much better team now than when we started. It is one hundred percent certain. We beat Serbia once and Sweden twice. It’s the only time since 2015, when we beat Croatia with Høgmo, we beat countries at this level. It shows that we have taken steps. We’d be second in this group, and we were ranked third. We came close, we got the final in the last game, but we didn’t take the last step that needed to be taken. The whole target of this project was the European Commission in Germany 2024, and we still trust that.
We are in a good place, but we could be in a better place. I think the players, coaches and coaches all have a good feeling. We know where we’re going, we know where we are, and we obviously have something to go on.
Ståle Solbakken has Per-Mathis Høgmo and Egil Olsen behind him on the VG roster. There’s reason to remember that Drillo’s adventure really took off in his 20th game. 10-0 at San Marino in 1992 kicked off an impressive World Cup qualification when Norway put great nations like Holland, England, Turkey and Poland in as the fifth seed in the lottery.
In next year’s EC qualifiers, Solbakken’s team will have to repeat some level three achievement.
It’s the same old lesson that’s repeating itself. It seems we don’t understand it when there are crucial situations and matches. Aji Harid, who was unable to lead Norway to the championship, says it has been going on for more than 20 years. I stopped playing outside the restroom in 2006.
– do you know him?
– yes I do. We can’t raise the level of our players collectively and were outdone by smart Serbia. They have good individual players, they are safer on the ball, while we have passing errors and we lose the ball in the middle of the field before the second goal.
We beat more skilled players in the middle of the field with Serbia. Especially when it comes to passing security. It was very decisive. They came together in a completely different way than we were able to do. That’s wisdom, experience, and routine, says Howard.
“Infuriatingly humble internet trailblazer. Twitter buff. Beer nerd. Bacon scholar. Coffee practitioner.”