Solbakken on Norway’s World Cup chances: “Extremely difficult but we’ll make a wholehearted attempt”

Ståle SolbakkenHamar. Ståle Solbakken jumps straight into a tough World Cup qualifier in his new job as national soccer team manager.Photo: Geir Olsen / NTB
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Ståle Solbakken is jumping straight into a tough World Cup qualifier in his new job as national football team manager. 

Solbakken is replacing Lars Lagerbäck, and his first task will be qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

The groups for Europe will be ready on Monday, his first working day in the NFF as national team manager.

The World Cup qualifier is described by quite a few as an almost “impossible” step for Norway on the way to the European Championships in 2024.

Only 13 teams from Europe can play in the World Cup.

“I do not think that should be the attitude. We will make a wholehearted attempt and certainly not throw in the towel in advance.

“World Cup qualification is extremely difficult, based on how the seeding is done and the number of European teams that get a place in the World Cup. But we first have to take the draw,” Solbakken told news bureau NTB.

The corona situation also creates precarious working conditions for the new manager.

“The pandemic also means that – in the worst case – I might not get to meet my players physically until a few days before the first match,” he added.

Solbakken’s first task will be to build a support apparatus and start probing relevant players.

Happy

Solbakken was presented as the new manager on Thursday. He answered the questions of the press digitally from his house in Hamar.

“I am proud and honored to have been asked (editor’s note: to lead the team). We were in dialogue before, but then – for various reasons – it didn’t materialize. I am super motivated, super happy, and look forward to throwing myself into this when the quarantine is over on Sunday,” Solbakken said.

“It is an exciting group of players,” he added.

Lots to build on

Solbakken would not say anything concrete about what the challenges will be in the future.

“I have seen all the international matches and think they have done a good job. There is progression and a lot to build on.

“I have to go in depth, watch the matches again, and get to know the players better. Once I have done that, it will be easier to answer what the big challenges will be,” he stated.

Contacted this fall

Solbakken was first contacted this autumn, football president Terje Svendsen stated during the press conference.

Earlier this autumn, Solbakken was fired after two periods at FC Copenhagen.

Solbakken says he subsequently received some “crazy offers,” but he decided on Norway.

However, he does not have a coaching staff in place.

“I have some thoughts about it and some feelings about what to do, but I have not really started yet,” he said.

Starts on Monday

Norway may end up in the same World Cup qualifier as Denmark and Sweden.

These three nations are at each other’s seeding level. Joining the World Cup as a European nation requires a lot of work.

“I can imagine playing against Denmark. It would be a fun match. They have one of the best national teams in a long time. It would be a nice challenge,” Solbakken, who still has a residential address in Copenhagen, said.

Earlier this autumn, Norway lost the European Championship rematch at home against Serbia.

With that loss, the opportunity to participate in the championship that will be played this summer disappeared.

Solbakken was part of the Norwegian squad that played in the 1998 World Cup and the European Championships two years later.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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