Erling Haaland’s damage shouldn’t be critical – Norway boss Stale Solbakken
Stale Solbakken admits it was a “big blow” to lose Erling Haaland for Sunday’s dead-rubber Euro 2024 qualifier towards Scotland at Hampden – however the Norway supervisor is assured the Manchester City striker’s damage shouldn’t be a critical one.
The free-scoring ahead withdrew from the squad on Saturday morning after damaging his ankle within the second-half of Thursday’s 2-0 pleasant win over Faroe Islands.
“It’s a big blow for any team but we have played without him before, sometimes with success, sometimes without,” stated Solbakken, talking at Hampden on Saturday night.
“We started the qualification when he was not ready for the first two games, but after that he has played every single game so it was unfortunate for us that he got the small knock on Thursday.
“It’s the movement in his foot that is the problem but it’s not a serious injury. Had it been a final, I don’t know (if he would have been fit to play).
“All parties agree it is probably a little too early (for him to play) but it is not a career-threatening injury.”
When requested why Haaland – a talisman for membership and nation – was risked in such a low-key match, Solbakken stated: “It was his choice. He wanted to play 45 minutes to keep the momentum in a week where we were maybe not training as much. It was his decision.
“There were three players who have played many games and we had conversations with all three of them and Erling’s much preferred choice was to play 45 minutes.”
Many anticipated Sunday’s match being a qualification decider however Scotland’s 2-1 win in Oslo in June, once they scored two objectives within the closing minutes to overturn Haaland’s penalty, has proved pivotal.
The Scots are already assured of a spot within the finals in Germany and are six factors forward of third-placed Norway, who’ve solely a slim likelihood of touchdown a play-off if outcomes elsewhere go their means.
“It was probably the sorest defeat you will ever feel,” stated Solbakken, recalling Scotland’s late turnaround in the summertime. “I still wake up at night thinking about those last five minutes but that is life.
“If you look back now, those five minutes were very, very damaging. Otherwise the game tomorrow would have been a final. That speaks volumes.
“But we must congratulate Scotland on a great campaign. They have done really, really well, not only in this campaign but also in the years before that.
“They’ve played at a very high level and have also been good at bringing the margins on their side in tight games, which is very important in national football when there are so few games.”
Unless they handle to salvage a Euro 2024 place by way of a play-off, Norway’s run with out main match soccer will prolong to 26 years. The Scots ended a 23-year wait once they certified for the Euros in 2021 and Solbakken feels his nation can draw inspiration from Steve Clarke’s resurgent aspect.
“Of course we can,” he stated. “I think we are quite even. We always play very tight games against each other but they have been better than us with the small margins lately. We need to see if we can find that way too.”