Leo on Norse plight
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Oyvind Leonhardsen is seeing his chances of appearing in what could be his last major international tournament slowly disappear - and he hasn’t been able to do a lot about it.
Norway are languishing in their World Cup qualifying group, having registered only two points — from draws with Wales and Armenia — so far, with Poland being the latest team to plunder three points from the once formidable Norwegians.
Opponents seem to have finally cracked the Norse code.
Leo looks on from afar, not able to affect his national team’s current plight due to injury, but he insists that performances have been much better than results when pressed on what’s gone wrong.
"I don’t know," said Leo. "All the games we have not got three points from we have had a chance to win. We have created chances, but have been a bit unlucky I think.
"But then, of course, we have not been good enough. If you look behind the games you will see that we could have won all of them so we still have a chance and we know we can beat everyone.
"So we just have to make it right in the next game (away to Belarus on Wednesday) and hopefully we can build on that and have a few games winning."
So what is the reaction in Norway — are the public beginning to question the ability of the national team after years of relative success?
"Of course they are very disappointed back home, and people are starting to doubt if we can still do it. But the players still think we can make it, but it’s very hard.
"I still feel we have chance, but we have made it very difficult for ourselves. We know we can beat any team so hopefully we can get it right."
To the outsider, Norway maybe looked a tougher nut to crack when former manager Egil Olsen had a limited pool of players to choose from and they maximised their potential by making themselves difficult to beat — and didn’t worry about upsetting the purists.
Current coach Nils Johan Semb now has a wealth of talent at his disposal, his striking options must be the envy of many national team - perm any two from Steffen Iversen, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tore Andre Flo or John Carew. Iversen has been deployed on the right side of midfield more often than not.
"It’s maybe a better choice now, but that’s a luxury problem, isn’t it? It should make it better. I’m not sure if the manager can pick the eleven he wants because of injuries.
"Now everyone knows about Norway and we were favourites to win the group. That kind of makes it a little bit harder as well. But we should be able to handle it."
By Richard Hubbard