“The matches did not last an hour and a half,” he wrote. “They played for up to five, six hours at a time, almost like cricket.”
Norway, which reached France in 1998, the Netherlands and Belgium two years later, for the European Championship, was the exception, not the rule. When the success faded and mediocrity set in, Knausgaard found it heartwarming. “It was as if childhood was coming back, the world was returning to its usual form,” he wrote. “Comfort was around me like a gray cardigan and a pair of gray felt slippers.”
This slowdown was undoubtedly linked to the decrease in the number of Norwegians playing in the elite European leagues, especially the Premier League. For much of the 1990s, most English teams had some sort of Norwegian influence: 23 Norwegian players were registered at top English clubs in 1997, forming the core of the squad that will play the FIFA World Cup. world at the end of this season. .
In 2014, this group was no more than one: Brede Hangeland was the only Norwegian representative in the Premier League. (“The Norwegian players at the big international clubs are gone,” Knausgaard wrote. “Again, it became great to be a professional in Twente or Heerenveen or Nottingham or Fulham, and for an old man like me, he felt secure. ”) England had always been Norway’s main export market; now English clubs were shopping in France, Spain, Argentina and Brazil, and Norway was suffering.
This slowly started to change and Norway’s horizons widened as a result. Haaland is not the only representative of the new generation of the country: he was joined by Martin Odegaard, the Arsenal playmaker; Sander Berge, a highly regarded Sheffield United midfielder; and Alexander Sorloth, a dominant striker of Real Sociedad, the leader of the Spanish league.
The depth of resources gives this campaign an air not of a missed opportunity, but a harbinger of a better future. “I am absolutely sure that we will be successful in Germany 2024 if we continue what we have started,” Norway coach Stale Solbakken said on national television on Tuesday, referring to the next edition of the European Championship.