The second spot will be on the line when Spain travels to Oslo to take on Norway in their UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier on Sunday
Spain will be buzzing after their win over Scotland earlier in the week and will aim to chip away at the deficit at the top of the table when they travel to Norway this Sunday.
Stale Solbakken’s men are currently third in the Group A standings, two points behind second-placed Spain going into the game. A win on the night will see them leaplog their more illustrious opponents to second, occupying the final qualification spot.
Spain have played a game less and a win on the night should see them more or less cement a top-two spot. Norway have little option but to go all out and will hope their fans and difference makers can swing the tie in their favour.
Norway are on a four-game winning streak in all competitions and will hope momentum can carry them over the line on Sunday. Despite possessing a handful of world-class players, the Scandinavians go into the tie as underdogs against the three-time European champions.
A win on the night for the home side will keep their qualification hopes alive while one for the visitors will not just strengthen their hold on a top-two spot but also keep them within striking distance of the top spot.
The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on Sunday and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
Endelig hjemme på Ullevaal🇳🇴❤️ Siste økt er gjennomført, og vi gleder oss til å se dere alle i morgen pic.twitter.com/xBcocfit8G
— Fotballandslaget (@nff_landslag) October 14, 2023
Solbakken will be aware that his side lacks the strength in depth of Spain but possesses within their roster a handful of truly world-class match-winners. He is unlikely to tinker much with the side that dispatched Cyprus with ease earlier in the week and will hope that home support can see them through to a key win. The Norwegian XI on the night should be considerably different to the one that lost 3-0 in the away fixture earlier in the campaign.
Norway’s lone appearance at the European Championships was in 2000 and a defeat on their night will further extend their dry spell. Solbakken is likely to retain his 4-3-3- formation that will focus on getting the ball forward to Erling Haaland to work his magic.
Orjan Nyland is expected to start in goal behind the back four of Birger Meling, Leo Ostigard, Kristoffer Ajer and Julian Ryerson. Burnley star Sander Berge should hold the fort in midfield, giving Fredrik Aursnes and Arsenal skipper Martin Odegaard the freedom to push forward.
It is upfront where Norway’s real strength lies given that Erling Haaland will be expected to lead the line. He will be ably supported by Antonio Nusa and Alexander Sorloth. The former is garnering headlines with Chelsea very keen on his services. A strong performance on the night could be a pivotal moment in the youngster’s rising career.
Arsenal showed last weekend that denying service to Haaland could see him struggle to make an impact on the night. Spain can be expected to put more pressure on Norway’s midfield and close down passing avenues to play the ball forward. How the likes of Odegaard respond to it could decide the game on the night.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Nyland; Ryerson, Ajer, Ostigard, Meling; Odegaard, Berge, Aursnes; Sorloth, Haaland, Nusa
La Roja gave themselves a massive boost by defeating Group leaders Scotland 2-0 midweek. Having played a game less, they can now draw level with the Tartan Beasts should they win in Oslo on Sunday.
The UEFA Nations League holders defeated Norway 3-0 at home and will hope for a similar result on the night. The tasks will not be made easy with the home side now welcoming back Haaland and other senior stars.
However, Spain are still the favourite going into the game given their pedigree and strength in depth. Luis de la Fuente Castillo’s side have not tasted defeat since their matchday two loss to Scotland and have picked their pace up since winning the Nations League under Luis Enrique.
They have now failed to win the UEFA Euro Championship since 2012 and will hope to secure a fourth crown next year. Spain might not be the dominant side of old but possesses the know-how to grind out results and run riot if given the opportunity.
The visitors do have several injuries to contend with. Nico Williams, Alejandro Balde, Lamine Yamal, Yeremy Pino, Dani Olmo, Pedri, Marco Asensio and Jose Gaya are all nursing injuries and are available for selection.
💪🏼 ¡¡Empezamos el entrenamiento oficial!!
Tomamos contacto con el césped del Ullevaal Stadion de Oslo con el mejor ánimo.
— Selección Española Masculina de Fútbol (@SEFutbol) October 14, 2023
Gavi did not last the full game against Scotland and is yet to recover completely from a knock. However, he is expected to feature on the night. Spain are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation that offers them flexibility to respond to contingencies.
Unai Simon is expected to start in goal behind the back four Dani Carvajal, Robin Le Normand, Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia. Rodri should hold the fort in the middle of the pitching, providing a base for Gavi and Mikel Merino to push forward.
Alvaro Morata should lead the line as Spain’s focal point of attack, with Ferran Torres and Bryan Zaragoza Martinez providing the width.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Simon; Carvajal, Le Normand, Laporte, Garcia; Merino, Rodri, Gavi; Torres, Morata, Zaragoza
- Spain have won the European Championships thrice in their history, the most recent of them coming in 2012. They are joint top with Germany on three wins.
- Norway have not qualified for the Championship proper since their appearance at Euro 2000. It remains their only appearance at the championships in history.
- Euro 2000 also remains the last time that Norway qualified for a major international tournament.
- Norway and Spain have faced off with times in a competitive setup. Norway have won just once while Spain have won five games.
- Spain last failed to qualify for the European Championship in 1992.
Player to Watch
While Erling Haaland will be Norway’s biggest goalscoring threat, his lack of dominance in the absence of Kevin De Bruyen at Manchester City showcases a major weakness. Arsenal used it to great effect at the weekend, where they negated the Norwegian striker’s contribution by cutting off supply.
This is where Odegaard comes in. The Arsenal man will be aware of the need to get the ball forward to Haaland and will hope to be the carrier who breaks Spain’s lines and sets up goal-scoring opportunities for the home side. Odegaard is also a good free-kick taker and will hope to make the most of dead-ball opportunities.
It is a must-win game for Norway and they have a reasonable chance of upsetting Spain should their captain pull the strings in midfield.
Norway 1-1 Spain
Norway will be fighting for their future in the tournament and will likely give it their all on the night. Spain are the superior side as a whole and should have enough in their tank to not crumble. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw with both sides sharing the spoils.