– Ola (Sand, national team doctor) keeps him going. But I’m not going to put my house on the line for that, Solbakken told NRK about whether Haaland will appear for Sunday’s game against Finland.
The star player has recently been battling injuries and has been undergoing treatment in Barcelona. Without the Manchester City striker, Norway won 2-1 after a late goal.
– We had a lot of good periods and some not so good ones. We were given a test by some new players, who had good experience. Overall, I am satisfied, said Solbakken.
Little was at stake ahead of the private international against Ireland in Dublin, and initially there was plenty to suggest just that. Even play and few odds.
That was before Leo Skiri Østigård – in familiar fashion – decided to tower over the corner. Just before half-time, the centre-back scored the first goal of the game.
The kind Ørjan Håskjold Nyland contributed for a long time for Norway to stay in the game, but the equalizer finally came. Alan Browne made it 1-1 in Dublin after a fine long-range shot.
For a long time it looked to be headed for a draw, but Ohi Omoijuanfo wanted it differently.
The substitute fought for the ball in a duel with Ireland’s Nathan Collins and Ohi was ready when he tapped home from more than five meters. The score meant that Norway won the match 2–1.
– It’s very tasty, that’s why I was brought in. To score.
This is a typical striker’s goal. It was suddenly in front of me, and then I knocked on it. Rarely do I not know where to go after scoring a goal. It’s a nice feeling, Omoijuanfo told NRK.
– That’s his strength. He is a “fox in a box”. He will have it. He took the chance he was given, national team manager Ståle Solbakke told NRK.
Erling Braut Haaland has been struggling with injuries and is not available for the match. Hence, Omoijuanfo was included in the squad in record time and earned his first international cap in five years.
– I was lucky to be taken out, after illness and such. Actually I was supposed to have a little family vacation, but when Ståle called, I was so happy. Holidays aside, we’ll have to do it later, he told TV 2.
– Maybe I got a little bit of Haaland’s magic, added the hero.
Prior to the game, there wasn’t much to suggest it was “just” a private international game to be played in Dublin on Thursday night. Because it was a wholly Irish crowd welcoming Ståle Solbakken and Norway. It was reported that more than 45,000 tickets had been sold before the game, but the official figure may be slightly lower.
Those present saw Ireland get off to an offensive start, but it was Norway that got the first chance to play Strand Larsen. Celta Vigo striker received the ball from an angled angle and went in, but last Irish defender Gavin Bazunu parried the shot.
Norway had several half-half chances throughout the half, and five minutes before half-time the score came. There was no stopping Østigård when he climbed high and scored the first goal for Norway. In stark contrast to previous games, you could almost hear the pin drop as the Napoli man cheered for the goal.
– This is something I’ve been waiting for. I had moments where I was disappointed and cursed myself. I’ve been training a lot, and gaining confidence after the goal against Rangers. It’s delicious, says Østigård.
He was praised by experts.
– We have the world’s best head players in Østigård. Hardly anyone in the world does it better than him, exclaimed TV 2 expert Yaw Amankwah in the channel’s studio broadcast.
The man behind the corner? Norway captain Martin Ødegaard – who poked the Napoli player in the forehead.
– We started a bit stupid in the second half and gave the ball away easily. It’s a bit messed up, they score too. We stayed calm and got another goal from set pieces so that’s good, national team captain Martin Ødegaard told NRK.
Decide before the end
Norway were solid defensively throughout the first half, with Østigård leading, but after half-time it was more exciting. Ireland emerged as a completely new team and pushed Solbakken’s squad. Alan Browne, among others, came very close to equalizing for Ireland shortly after.
– Defending us was worse than we did in the first half, says NRK expert Carl-Erik Torp.
And the Irish pressure will pay off in the end. The same Browne won from over 20 meters shortly after, and leveled at 1-1. Omoijuanfo decided the game more than five minutes before normal time.
- Norway meets Finland next Sunday at home to Ullevaal.
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