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Spain always seem to
underachieve in major tournaments, but now's
as good a time as any to put the record straight. Two Spanish clubs contested last month's
European Champions League Cup final, in Paris, and there will be another major fiesta in
Madrid if Euro2000 goes according to the Spanish plan.
Many countries find a way to show their public
that this could be their year and there are just as many ways to point out that maybe
underachieving is more likely. If Spain loose their opening match, the groans will be
heard from Barcelona to Seville. Nada de nuevo!
In the France98 World Cup, Spain were billed
as one of the favourites. Spain lost 2-3 to a physically superior Nigeria in the first of
three group games and even though they thrashed Bulgaria 6-1 in the last game, they failed
to make the 2nd round.
Does History have a
habit of repeating itself?
Spain were in their tenth World Cup finals in France, but have never reached the final;
and only made it to the semi-finals way back in 1950. They had also been in the last six
World Cups, but even at home in 1982, they failed to get past the second round.
But this is the European
True. And it's sixteen years since Spain had something to really cheer about here too;
loosing to Michel Platini's France in the 1984 final, in Paris. Since 1988 Spain have
never won an opening match in a competitive competition. Maybe this year?
Spain amassed 42 goals in Qualifying for this
tournament, although they lost their first match 2-3, in Cyprus. San Marino and Austria
didn't prove worthy opponents for classy Spain, but they'll be a little more nervous about
Spain's coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, barred
non-Spanish journalists from a recent news conference to try and keep his strategy under
wraps. Influential Raul and defender Michel Salgado both seem to be carrying injuries but
are expected to start.
Norway will be looking to
Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjśr (who recently watched the birth of his new son,
Noah) and maybe John Carew to partner the direct attack, just behind the spearhead of
Chelsea's Tore Andre Flo.
Manchester United's other Norwegian, Henning
Berg, is expected in the back line; even though he missed training on Friday and Saturday.
Norway have only lost three of their 25 games
since mid-1998, one of them their first qualifying game 1-3, at home to Latvia.
22-Jose Francisco Molina
2-Michel Salgado, 3-Agustin Aranzabel, 6-Fernando Hierro, 18-Paco Jemez
4-Josep Guardiola, 8 - Fran Gonzalez, 21 - Juan Carlos Valeron
10-Raul, 17-Jose Etxeberria, 20-Ismael Urzaiz
2-Andre Bergdolmo, 3-Bjorn Otto Bragstad, 4-Henning Berg, 14-Vegard Heggem
18-Steffen Iversen, 7-Erik Mykland, 11-Bent Skammelsrud,
19-Eirik Bakke, 9-Tore Andre Flo, 20-Ole Gunnar Solksjaer
Referee: Gamal El Ghandour
A much calmer start to a game than we've seen so far in the opening matches. The first
free-kick falls to Norway but it's too deep for Tore Andre Flo, who gets an early feel of
Hierro's forearm on his shoulder.
Spain try to build slowly, deep in the Norway
half. The crowd whistles; it's all very slow. Norway try a quick counter-attack.
For the first half an hour the ball is in the
Norwegian half most of the time, although a Solskaer header did hit the Spanish crossbar
in the 20th minute.
Five minutes before half-time we were treated
to a few flashes of what Raul can do when he's 100% fit. Breaking through, he either shot
wide or was called back for narrow offside decisions.
Norway are very organised and Spain need a
little more spark.
Just before half-time, Vegard Heggem breaks
down the Norway right. Solskaer receives the ball with his back to the goal; turns in the
area; and tries a shot on the turn. The ball bounces before Molina and loses it's power.
The second half was played out much the same as the first. Again Spain didn't look as if
they wanted to win, or more to the point, didn't know how to believe they could.
Norway took the lead in the 66th minute -- Steffen
Iversen jumps up to meet the ball as the Spanish goalkeeper, Jose Molina, tries
to double fist it away. The Tottenham player wins the challenge and the ball is in the
After a double Spanish substitution in the
73rd minute, Guardiola hit the Norwegian crossbar from a free-kick. Then it was back to
play the ball around and try to catch the Norwegians with Salgado's change of pace on the
right. The Norwegians cleared upfield, and the process repeated itself again, and again.
Raul showed moments of hope, but was often quickly surrounded by white shirts.
Whistles ring around the stadium from
disgruntled Spanish fans. As time is running out, Spain still show no urgency in their
game. Same old story when they get to the tournament stage and their country expects.
Another cross from Salgado.... Norway are big
to the challenge, standing tall under any sort of half-pressure the Spaniards try to
The Vikings treasure three points while the
Spanish Armada is sunk again.
Spain 0 -- Norway 1
Man of the Match:
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