The Norway U21 national team won the last game in the EC qualifiers against Azerbaijan in Marienlyst on Tuesday night.
– Amazing achievements
Jørgen Strand Larsen and Erik Botheim scored Norway’s goals in a 2-1 win, meaning Norway win the group and qualify for next summer’s European Championship play-offs.
Game winner Erik Botheim happily sent Norway to the European Commission.
– What we have managed now is a great achievement, he emphasized to NRK after the match.
He said that Norway was clearly affected by the event.
– We weren’t so good today, we were nervous, but that’s normal in such an important match. Fortunately, we were able to row him ashore, said the striker.
Will you be following Norway in the U21 EC in 2023?
– Erling has nothing to do here
Everyone born after 1 January 2000 is eligible to play in EC. Thus including Erling Braut Haaland.
But those who had high hopes for the City striker playing for the Under-21s in next summer’s championship may be disappointed. National team A will play two important European Championship qualifying matches in the middle of the U21 European Championship.
The Norwegian national team has two matches in the EC qualifiers from 16-20. June next year, while EC U21 will be played from 9-22. June.
Erik Bothheim didn’t want Haaland to join anyway, he joked.
– If Erling comes here I will be kicked out of the team, so I will ask him to stay in the A national team, Bothheim smirked when NRK asked him if he wanted to lobby to take Haaland to U21 EC.
Bothheim believes it would be the wrong priority to use Haaland at U21 level.
– He has nothing to do here, strictly speaking.
The U21 national team manager, Leif Gunnar Smerud, believes that it is unlikely that he will get one of the world’s best strikers in the EC squad.
– I doubt it. If he wants him, and neither the club nor the national team want him, I’m not going to get in the way of that. But now I think we have to focus on those who have been playing tricks on us in EC, then we will stop there, said Smerud.
– A dream come true
The Championships will be held in Romania and Georgia from 9 June to 02 July 2023.
Smerud was relieved after the narrow victory on Tuesday.
– It’s a dream come true for a team that has fought so hard and qualified well. It’s absolutely fantastic, and historic, as that rarely happens in Norway. We are very proud today, Smerud told NRK after the match.
He hailed his no-club match winner Erik Botheim.
– He has done absolutely crazy work. I think I read that he has gone 170 days without playing a game, but then he played a nearly full three games and worked out this collection well. He is a machine and has put together an “amazing” collection both on and off the pitch for us, Smerud told NRK.
First since 2013
Therefore, Norway will be playing in the EC final for the U21 national team for the first time since 2013.
At that time, Norway reached the semifinals with current National A players like Stefan Strandberg, Omar Elabdellaoui and Ørjan Nyland in the team.
Smerud believes that the team on Tuesday is marked by high shoulders.
– We were swayed by the opportunity, we have to be honest. That’s a bit of the appeal of football, it’s not often we play important games like this. But we managed to row him ashore in the end, said Smerud.
The young players of the U21 national team manager impressed in qualifying and won the group ahead of the likes of Croatia, Finland and Austria.
16 countries participate in EC, and these teams are currently eligible:
– It’s crazy that we did it
Belgium, England, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Georgia (organizer), Romania (organizer).
– It’s absolutely crazy that we did it. Kudos to Erik (Botheim) who was the winner of the game, but also kudos to the whole team. There are a lot of profiles here that contributed to this, but didn’t score or make any assists, and kudos to the support staff all around. Even though the match itself was terrible, Strand Larsen told NRK.
He prefers to spend as little time as possible on post-game interviews. Now the celebration awaits all night with the team.
– Don’t call me tomorrow, at least, said Strand Larsen with a smile.
NFF bosses applaud talent work
NFF President Lise Klaveness is proud that the U21 boys got EC tickets.
– It’s important for us to reach the championship, it’s something we have invested in strategically, Klaveness told NRK.
NFF bosses believe that the EC ticket is the result of a lot of good work in Norwegian football.
– The fact that you have now reached the championship here, and succeeded with the A national team in the National League, is a sign that the top Norwegian club have worked well over time and are doing very well in their work of talent, he believes.
EC draw in October
Which team will meet Norway will be decided in the draw in Bucharest on October 18 this year. The playoff draw in which the teams will meet each other to secure the final ticket to the European Championship, takes place on June 21.
The U21 EC will also be an opportunity for the Norwegian boys to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024.
– I think this group here is going to take it as far as possible. But we had to go to EC first, and now we have succeeded, said Smerud.
A nervous and hopeful Norway struggled for long to break through on Tuesday night but in the second half it was loosened up when Haldense’s Strand Larsen made it 1-0 from close range after a fine ball along the ground from Viking’s Sebastian Sebulonsen.
Norwegian big mistake
Ildar Alekperov equalized for the visitors when Markus Solbakken’s tricky pass ended up for Jesper Daland, who missed the ball and played for Alekperov at full-back. Alone with Kristoffer Klaesson, he made no mistake and scored 1-1.
But Norway hit back and made it 2-1 when clubless Erik Botheim headed in a set piece from Håkon Evjen 13 minutes from time. It goes on for EC wins and tickets.
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