Lise Klaveness (39) had to be taken out of her maternity leave to “save” the NFF in the chaos around the national matches in November. In 2020, the theme «national team manager» now remains. NFF should lean on her knowledge and wisdom there as well.
The football year 2020, for the Norwegian men’s national team, was the strangest I can remember in my time as a football journalist (since 1985). There has been chaos before as well, not least when Drillo was “tricked” out of his job as national team manager in 2013 or when Nils Johan Semb got “The battles in Drammen” in his lap in 2003.
Åge Hareide came up with “either you are with us, or you are with the Italians” in 2004 – and four years later he did not win an international match. Per-Mathias Høgmo invented many words, which few understood, but did not win enough football matches.
But the autumn Lars Lagerbäck has had, it tops all this. Not only has it been possible to be confused by the mixed results, but just before the pandemic also reached the national team squad, there was both internal and external strife.
And finally, when the season was about to end, he himself was quarantined. And consequently did not get to take part in the somewhat unreal experience in Vienna.
Was that the last thing we saw of Lars Lagerbäck as national team manager, with a bandage on at Gardermoen, without saying a word?
It is the stability that made Lagerbäck stumble into the obstacles in 2020, and that makes me unsure of the continuation. The Swede entered 2020 with nine games without a loss, and undefeated at Ullevaal in 14 games.
It looked bright. Maybe we had forgotten that the last two teams Norway had met were the Faroe Islands and Malta?
1-2 at home against Austria was heavy for more than Lagerbäck, who still rose with a powerful 5-1 in Belfast against Northern Ireland. Well then, Lagerbäck has finally found the formula, I thought – and then came 1-2, again, at home in the most important match, the play-off semifinal against Serbia.
From 1-2, and quarrel, the Lagerbäck team narrowed to 4-0 against Romania. Not easy to get wise here. Then followed a weak match, 1-0 against Northern Ireland, then the chaos and the cancellation of, first the training match against Israel – and then the qualifier match against Romania.
And when the season’s most watched (TV) international match was played, in Vienna, then it was U-national team manager Leif Gunnar Smerud who led a gang, where 12 men were potential debutants and the Smerud gang made a heroic effort.
Without it helping on anything other than self-esteem. Norway neither moved up in the A-pool in the Nations League nor acquired a possible play-off place for the World Cup.