Norway kept their qualifying hopes alive as they eased off to a 2-0 win over Cyprus, and they now have a chance to put extra pressure on leaders Switzerland ahead of the final two group games. The Swiss squandered a three-goal lead to draw with Iceland, but being four points clear at the top, they still arrive in Oslo in good spirits.
No more star players
Golden years of Norwegian football look like distant past at the moment, with the national team failing to qualify for a major tournament since 2000. With players like John Arne Riise, John Carew, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Steffen Iversen no longer part of the squad, and very little talent coming through the ranks, I dare say this is one of the weakest Norway teams I have ever seen. The fact Egil Olsen’s side are still in the running for World Cup qualification is the result of the team being placed in one of the easiest groups, but I am still pretty sure Norway will not be qualifying for the tournament finals. The Nordic side could only take one point from two games against weak Albania, and despite beating Cyprus at home, I cannot see them matching star-studded Switzerland. The hosts will be under pressure to record a victory and edge closer to automatic qualification, but that is likely to prove an extra burden for their inexperienced squad. The fact that the majority of the players from the current squad play their football in Scandinavia, unlike their opponents who play important roles in top European leagues, is another major cause for concern at the moment.
Boss Egil Olsen is set to revert to a more defensive approach, although he is unlikely to make major changes to the team that defeated Cyprus.
Switzerland switch off too early
Unlike their next opponents, Switzerland national team is undergoing a real resurgence in recent years, with legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld overseeing the process. I cannot remember the last time the Swiss looked so convincing on the pitch, but their excellent showings really comes as no surprise when we know that the likes of Lichtsteiner, Behrami, Dzemaili, Shaqiri and Seferovic are considered some of Europe’s most talented footballers. From the very start of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Switzerland climbed to the top of the standings and never looked back, although they could have already secured the qualifying berth. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side missed an excellent chance to increase their lead at the top as they squandered a three-goal lead to record a 4-4 draw with Iceland, but it is highly unlikely they will commit so many mistakes in Norway as well. Meanwhile, the team have got more than enough creativity and attacking potential to score a couple in Oslo, so no doubts they are the favourites to emerge triumphant from this important qualifier.
With no fresh injury worries to report, Ottmar Hitzfeld is set to field an unchanged side to that which shared spoils with Iceland.
Norway lack both quality and experience to mix it up with one of Europe’s best sides at the moment, and no doubt they will be outplayed by their more illustrious opponents. Switzerland should be even more determined to win in Oslo following a disappointing draw against Iceland, and it is perfectly clear they have more than enough quality to succeed in their quest.
Top pick: Switzerland Draw no bet 2.00 (1/1) @ Paddy Power
Alternative pick 1: Away win 2.88 (17/9) @ BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Half-time draw 2.06 (35/33) @ Unibet
Unbeatable FREE BET Package!
888Sports have just taken free bet promotions to another level! New customers can now get £/€/88 in Free Bets + 20 Free Spin Spins + Up to 5 “No Lose Bet”. All you need to do is place of at least £/€/$10 with 888Sports to get up to £/€/$88 in Free Bets + 20 Free Casino Spins for City Life Slot. And also, make a first mobile bet of at least £/€/$1 with minimum odds of 1.5 to get up to £/€/$5 “No lose Bet” on Mobile.