Norway’s European Championship campaign was undone by an over-reliance on Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard, according to former Celtic defender Vidar Riseth.
Scotland have qualified for this summer’s European Championships in Germany while Norway continue their exile from tournament football; it is now 23 years since they last qualified for a World Cup or Euros.
“To have big stars in the team that is good, really good,” he said. “But the most important thing when you are building a team is the whole team working well together.
“If you look at Scotland they have lots of good players but they don’t have names like Haaland so there is too much focus on Haaland and Odegaard. Scotland is more focused on the whole team. That is the work we have to do in Norway to bring the whole team in the game.
“We have a great team on paper but we haven’t got the best out of the team. We are really good in the forward areas and a lot of good players in the midfield but the defence have struggled a little bit and that has been our biggest problem.
“He [Haaland] is the best striker in the world so he has a lot of focus because of what he delivers to Manchester City. That is good for Norwegian football, of course. We also have Odegaard who is doing very well for Arsenal and they get a lot of focus but it is too much focus on two players and the rest of the team have to deliver as well.
“90% of the chat before the game is about Haaland and Odegaard and the rest of the team is not mentioned.
“We have players playing in Italy, Germany and England and they are playing in the best leagues but we are struggling to put the right team together. We haven’t defended well and that has been the main problem for the Norwegian national team.”
And Riseth admitted that there have been a few Norwegians left with egg on their face after expecting that it would be a straightforward task to see off Scotland and make it to Germany. Not he believes that the Scandinavians need to take a leaf out of Scotland’s book when it comes to getting more than the sum of the parts from the national side.
“Everyone in Norway thought this would be a good group for us,” said the former internationalist who amassed 52 caps for his country. “I said as soon as the group came out that it would not be easy. I know Scotland have a good team and I knew they were a team of hard-working players. I thought they might surprise everyone and we saw that with the Spain game which was incredible. It is not easy to take points from Scotland.
“Scotland deserve to be where they are because they have done an incredible job.”
Despite the frustrations of the campaign, Riseth expects that there will be no managerial change. There have been suggestions of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking on the role but Riseth believes the Norwegian FA and public still back Stale Solbakken.
“Everybody agrees that Sol is the right coach,” he said. “I played with him in the national team and I know him as a person. In this qualification we had a lot of injuries so that is not easy for the coach but we were still sure we would qualify.
“We have a small, small chance but this chance is so small that everyone knows we won’t qualify for the tournament. He will get another chance and we think he is the right coach. There has been talk about other coaches like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but they believe Sol is the right man and the Norwegian people think he should get one more chance.”
There will be a familiar face at Hampden on Sunday with former Celt Kris Ajer expected to start.
“Kris has done really well in the Premiership this season,” he said. “He has become more of a leader. He will play and he knows Scottish football really well. He knows what will come at Hampden Park.”