Stale Solbakken acknowledged the setback of losing Erling Haaland for Sunday’s inconsequential Euro 2024 qualifier against Scotland at Hampden.
The Norway manager Stale Solbakken expressed disappointment as the Manchester City striker Erling Haaland withdrew from the squad on Saturday morning due to an ankle injury sustained during the second half of Thursday’s friendly victory against the Faroe Islands. Despite the blow, Solbakken remains optimistic that Haaland’s injury is not severe.
“It’s a big blow for any team but we have played without him before, sometimes with success, sometimes without,” said Solbakken, speaking at Hampden on Saturday evening.
“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 asked why Haaland – a talisman for club and country – was risked in such a low-key match, Solbakken said: “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.”
Stale Solbakken not hopeful of Norway’s qualifying chances
Sunday’s match was to be a decisive qualifier, but Scotland’s crucial 2-1 victory in Oslo in June, where they scored two late goals to overturn Erling Haaland’s penalty, has already secured their place in the Euro 2024 finals in Germany. Scotland currently holds a six-point lead over third-placed Norway, making it challenging for Norway to secure a play-off spot unless specific results in other matches work in their favor.
“It was probably the sorest defeat you will ever feel,” said Solbakken, recalling Scotland’s late turnaround in the summer. “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.”