At last. A game of football.
Over the past few months – well, most of this year and probably a bit beyond as well – the stories have all been about Capello leaving, ‘Arry being the people’s choice, whether John Terry will continue to be John Terry and all the other unbelievably tiresome speculation about nearly every single aspect of the England team.
Apart from what’s actually happening on the field. In a bizarre turn of events, it seems that England are going to be playing several games of football over the next month or so, an exciting development for fans and pundits alike. The trouble is that the first game is against a team that we’ve had some problems with over the years: we’ve not beaten Norway at Wembley since 1980 but even more worrying is the last time we beat them in Norway was in a friendly before the 1966 World Cup.
The Norwegians haven’t qualified for any of the major tournaments for over a decade, but they were unlucky not to reach the playoffs for Euro 2012, having an inferior goal difference to Portugal – who they beat in Oslo during the qualifiers thanks to a goal from Portsmouth’s Erik Huseklepp. Their current FIFA ranking is higher than both of the hosts in the upcoming tournament as well as the Czech Republic so they aren’t a bad choice for a friendly game – with five English based players in the squad they’ll be familiar with our team and if there’s such a thing as a Scandinavian ‘style’ then I suppose this game is good practice in playing against it.
One thing that could be an advantage for the Norwegians is that the majority of their players are based at home and play in the top tier of the domestic competition, which kicked off in March: the reigning champions are Molde FK, who are managed by former Manchester United striker Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer. He was strongly linked with the Aston Villa job last week but saw sense and turned it down 😉
The danger men for the Norwegians are familiar names to England fans: Jon-Arne Riise, Morten Gamst Pederson and the aforementioned Erik Huseklepp but keep an eye out for Moa Abdellaoue (Hannover 96), the latest of a number of Norwegian players who have chosen to move to the Bundesliga. He’s got a decent strike rate in Germany (26 goals in 68 appearances) for a team that’s not exactly a powerhouse over there and could cause the back four some problems.
Apart from Robert Green and Andy Carroll, it’s not clear who will be in Roy Hodgson’s first England team, but with call ups for Martin Kelly (who won’t be travelling on to Eastern Europe) and Jack Butland (who will – John Ruddy’s broken finger will keep him out of the tournament) we might be seeing an experimental side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a friendly but hardly ideal a few weeks before a major tournament – so this is a classic wait and see game: a victory would be a bonus, but not losing would be just as good.
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