ULLEVAAL (Dagbladet): The national football team and coaching duo Lars Lagerbäck (72) and Per Joar “Perry” Hansen (55) have left behind an intense week. Three matches in six days – and confined to a hotel in Oslo – has been a physical and mental ordeal.
The last few days have been like a roller coaster. And it started in the worst possible way: the 1-2 loss to Serbia on Thursday means that Norway will not go to the European Championship finals next summer.
The loss was followed by two victories against Romania (4-0) and Northern Ireland (1-0). This means that the hope of group victory in the Nations League lives on.
– It is clear there are mixed feelings, says “Perry” in this interview with Dagbladet.
– It was a huge disappointment that we were not the best when it came to Serbia. We were not able to take out what actually lives in the team. But that’s the way it is sometimes, we can not do anything about it. Then it is a strength that we managed to fight back with a very good performance against Romania and a hard-fought victory against Northern Ireland. We were down in the basement and took out the last drops.
– How was the mood after the 1-2 loss to Serbia?
– It was a huge disappointment for everyone. Both players, coaches and the support staff had worked really hard against that match since last autumn. Obviously it was a very disappointment. It was hard to digest. At the same time, you get some setbacks in the sport and you have to deal with it as best you can. But right there and then it was a huge disappointment for everyone.
– Three matches in less than a week. How has this affected the squad?
– The match program has been inhuman for these players. Many of them have played three matches in six days. It is brutal physically, but also mentally. You must reset from one match to the next. You will fill up with energy .And you will get ready for the next match.
– In addition, it is mentally tough when you are locked in the hotel and do not get aired. It makes it incredibly intense socially. For the players, this is pure predation. Now it is very special, as it is coronatid. There are not so damn many choices other than to do it this way. Then time will tell if we get brighter times, and if we get vaccines and more, which allows us to return to normal. Hopefully the players get more air between the matches when they are at the national team gathering and between the national team gathering and the next club match. We can only hope that those who control this come to their senses. But right now, this is the only way to get this done.
– Nevertheless, the mechanisms are such that there is pressure on the coaches when the results do not meet expectations. How do you experience the storm that has been the last few days?
– Everyone is incredibly disappointed. The expectations for the match (the European Championship playoff against Serbia) were enormous, both from the people and the media. We were looking forward and were well prepared. We also had expectations to play a good match. When we then failed to deliver, emotions go out. That’s football. And I live well with that. People have feelings for football and Norway’s national team. People should be relieved of the pressure. Then it will be like that.
– The three matches were topped off with an interview on TV 2: Joshua King said that «the last two months has been the worst in his life». Did this interview come as a surprise to the coaches?
– No, we have had a close dialogue with “Josh” and knew what situation he has been in. He has wished away and to a new club. There have been alternatives and so on. We have had a nice dialogue with him all the way.
King has a contract with Bournemouth until next summer. He has been honest that he does not want to play for the club, which relegated to the Championship. The English transition window closes on Friday night.
He will not go into detail with TV 2:
– Honestly, I do not know what will happen. A lot has happened. If I had written a book about the last two months, it would definitely have been a bestseller, he says.
In the interview, King could also be interpreted as saying that this is about things off the football field, but there is speculation.
When asked if it is possible to elaborate on what this is about, the national team’s media manager, Svein Graff, answers:
– Do not want to comment on it.
– Was he mentally ready to play the match against Northern Ireland?
– Yes, it was him, «Perry» answers.
– He has trained well with us. After all, he has had a breakthrough in Bournemouth. He has trained fully with the team and has been on during the training here. There was never any doubt that he could play. We have three good strikers. We have said it all along: When you play so closely with matches, you have to have a fully charged striker on top. It was never a problem.
– You will meet Romania and Austria in November. Now it’s about group victory in the Nations League and extra opportunity for a World Cup place. What happens in the next few weeks?
– It’s going fast. The coaches will meet again in just 14 days. We have to evaluate these matches here. What has worked and what has not worked? For the players, it becomes very important that they get as much playing time as possible. We will also make a good program, so that we get a good collection in November. We must be prepared for three matches even then.
Match number three will possibly be a training match against Israel on November 12. This is a date for finals in the European Championship playoffs.
It is expected that players who do not get as much playing time will escape.
The ordinary World Cup qualifier will be played next year. The first opportunity to get to a championship will be in 2022.