All Square Looks Likely At WembleyStats
England v Norway
After a hugely disappointing World Cup for England, attention now turns to Euro qualifying with a friendly v Norway to kick things off.
England qualified for the World Cup qualifying in workmanlike fashion, but Roy Hodgson’s team was never entirely convincing and low expectations going into the tournament proved to be justified.
England gambled on beating either Italy or Uruguay, but were tactically naïve and defensively weak and lost to both. Their final game, a lacklustre draw against Costa Rica was particularly dispiriting.
Veteran Norwegian manager Egil Olsen resigned a year ago following a home defeat against Switzerland which effectively put an end to their World Cup qualifying hopes. His replacement Per-Mathias Hogmo has not been able to improve their form. They’ve only won one out of nine games under his stewardship, and were poor in a 0-0 draw with the UAE on Wednesday.
The retirements of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, as well as an injury list that runs into double figures means that Roy Hodgson has had to call up another batch of youngsters to the England colours. Calum Chambers, Jack Colback, Danny Rose and Febian Delph are the newcomers to the squad, and there is also a place for Andros Townsend who is back from injury.
Norway were dealt a blow two weeks ago when captain Brede Hangeland retired from international football and his successor has yet to be announced.
Otherwise the squad reflects the team’s current state of transition, although Hogmo has resisted the temptation to select fifteen-year-old prodigy Martin Odegaard, who made his full international debut on Tuesday.
Head to Head
Beginning in 1937, England won their first five matches against Norway by an aggregate score of 24-2. But fortunes have changed subsequently and the Norwegians have lost just one of their last six, causing a couple of upsets along the way.
The most memorable was their 2-1 victory over Ron Greenwood’s England, in a 1981 World Cup qualifier, made famous by Bjorge Lillelien’s post-match commentary, but they also contributed towards England’s failure to reach the 1994 World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Graham Taylor’s side in 1993.
The most recent encounters between these two sides have not been quite as exciting. In their last three games, they’ve produced just one goal between them, the winner that Ashley Young scored to settle their latest meeting in 2012.
Roy Hodgson earned some credit by trying to play a more expansive game in Brazil, but it is not his natural style and it didn’t work. He has no choice but to stick with the youngsters, but any improvement is likely to be slow in coming.
With a far more important game against Switzerland coming up, we can expect some more experimentation and a plethora of substitutes.
Throw in a half-empty stadium and opponents at a low ebb who will be happy to avoid defeat and the scene is set for a bore-fest.
Back the draw at 3/1 in the Match Betting market.