Spain will be keen to kick off their UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers with a win against Norway at home.
Following their disappointing FIFA World Cup 2022 campaign in Qatar, Spain will seek to rebuild their reputation anew when they take on Norway in their opening fixture of the UEFA 2024 Euro qualifiers at the La Rosaleda.
The underwhelming campaign in Qatar proved to be Luis Enrique’s last dance at the helm of the national team. New manager Luis de la Fuente has made the step up from managing the nation’s youth sides in recent years and will be keen to kick off his reign with a win.
In a group that also consists of Scotland, Georgia and Cyprus, Norway on paper presents La Furia Roja with their biggest challenge. Securing three points on opening night will certainly see the Iberians put their best foot forward to qualify for the tournament proper in 2024.
The upcoming ties will also serve as a testing ground of sorts ahead of Spain’s participation in the UEFA Nations League finals later this year. It is now 11 years since Spain last won a major trophy and they will be keen to end the hoodoo soon.
Despite not having qualified for a major tournament in 23 years, Norway possesses a promising squad that could develop into something formidable in the years to come. Stale Solbakken can send out a proper message with an opening day upset and has enough promise in his roster to manage just that.
Both teams are unlikely to go all out given that there are nine games left in the group stages. The match is likely to be a low-scoring affair with both sides adopting a safety-first approach. De la Fuente will be keen to inculcate his style amidst the senior squad and the sooner the side settles into its groove, the better.
The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
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With just 11 players retained from their World Cup squad in Qatar, it appears to be a new dawn for Spanish football under La Fuente. A host of players will be likely to win their first cap and could set the stage for an overhaul if things go right.
Brentford goalkeeper David Raya has enjoyed a fine season so far and has captured the attention of several top sides. With Unai Simon absent, he could be in line to make his senior debut for La Roja.
La Fuente is likely to go in with a 4-3-3 formation that is freely flexible and can be shifted around with minimal fuss. Raya at the back should be protected by the rearguard of Dani Carvajal, Inigo Martinez, Aymeric Laporte and Alejandro Balde.
Manchester City star Rodri should start at the tip of the midfield three, providing experience and muscle in a key area of the pitch. With Pedri forced to withdraw due to injury, his Barcelona teammate Gavi should partner Real Madrid star Dani Ceballos in the midfield three.
Veteran striker Alvaro Morato will skipper the side for the next two games and will lead the line on the night. He looked set to be supported by Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo. Olmo will be expected to act as a number 10 in Carlos Soler’s absence. The game presents him with an excellent opportunity to stake his claim for a starting spot on a regular basis.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Raya; Carvajal, Martinez, Laporte, Balde; Gavi, Rodri, Ceballos; Oyarzabal, Morata, Olmo
Star striker Erling Haaland has set the scoring charts on fire at Manchester City and will be deeply missed on the night. Despite his absence, Stale Solbakken should be able to call on Alexander Sorloth and Mohamed Elyounoussi to lead the line.
The Scandinavians have failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 2000 Euros and will be keen to buck that trend this time around. On paper, they are set to kick off the campaign with the toughest tie in the group but the uncertainty surrounding Spain’s rebuild could give them some hope.
Ny økt gjennomført i varmen på Marbella☀️ To dager igjen før Spania venter i Malaga🇪🇸🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/2kKqLekOC9
— Fotballandslaget (@nff_landslag) March 23, 2023
In a 4-3-1-2 formation, Orjan Nyland should start in goal behind the back four of Julian Ryerson, Leo Ostigard, Stefan Strandberg and Birger Meling. Sander Berge is likely to get the nod in central midfield and should be flanked by Fredrik Aursnes and Martin Odegaard. The Arsenal man will be expected to work with Mats Daehli who should don the number 10 role.
With Joshua King also out injured, Alexander Sorloth and Mohamed Elyounoussi are expected to lead the line. The duo have a pedigree of their own and have the opportunity in Haaland’s absence to remind fans of just what they are capable of.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Nyland; Ryerson, Ostigard, Strandberg, Meling; Odegaard, Berge, Aursnes; Daehli, Sorloth, Elyounoussi
- Norway have failed to qualify for a major tournament since the last 23 years.
- Spain have won the European Championship thrice, the joint most of any side in the competition’s history.
- Only 11 players from Spain’s FIFA World Cup 2022 squad from Qatar have retained their spot in Luis de la Fuente’s maiden squad selection.
- Norway have managed just one clean sheet against Spain in their ten previous meetings.
- Spain’s only competitive loss to Norway came in Euro 2020, 23 years ago.
Player to Watch
Odegaard the captain who leads by actions and the one who gets tactical changes from the coach has to be the best Captain of the Emirates Era🙌It ain't a coincidence he also captains his country too at the age of 24🤩🤩and he is a genius with the ball too😤🤓 pic.twitter.com/awJsR9j8NP
— London is red🔴⚪🤍❤ (@mikekariungi) March 6, 2023
The Arsenal man has taken his game up a notch this season and is among one of the driving forces behind the Gunners’ title march. With Erling Haaland out injured, the onus to make a difference in the attack will fall on Odegaard’s shoulders.
Alexander Sorloth and Mohamed Elyounoussi will benefit from Odegaard’s vision and defence-splitting passes, giving them opportunities to make a difference in the final third. Add to it the midfielder’s prowess on the dead ball and there is every reason to believe he can surprise the Spaniards if afforded the opportunity.
Spain 1-1 Norway
Erling Haaland’s absence is certainly a huge blow for Norway as they aim to make it to a major competition for the first time in 23 years. However, with Spain yet to showcase their identity under management, the time could be ripe for the visitors to stun their more illustrious opponents.
The game is likely to be a largely closed affair with both sides feeling out the other. It will not come as a surprise should both teams settle for a share of the spoils. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw this weekend.