Norway vs Scotland: Inside Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard’s mixed debut on the international stage | Soccer News

It is Scotland who hold pole position in Group A. A historic victory over Spain after a victory over Cyprus puts them in a strong position at the start of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

While they have meticulously planned this month’s fixture streak during a warm-weather training camp, they will also be hoping Erling Haaland’s hat-trick celebrations and a possible post-season dip in Martin Odegaard could well take over. off Norway in Oslo on Saturday evening.

In assessing the task ahead of Steve Clarke’s men, it’s impossible to look past the two prodigious standout talents in the Norway team. Both were teenage sensations. Both have gone on to become world-class players, who have starred in the Premier League title race this season.

Haaland, with his record 36 goals, of course emerged victorious. But Odegaard led Arsenal to a hugely impressive campaign. He also wears his country’s armband and will make his 50th appearance for his country this weekend.

For Haaland – if the hangover has passed – there is the possibility of continuing his remarkable scoring streak on the international stage, where he scored 21 goals in 23 games. Norway could certainly do with a few of their trademark strikes, with a victory almost essential if they are to put themselves on track for a place in the tournament next summer. They only took one point from their first two games when their striker was injured.

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Scotland defender Jack Hendry plans to face striker Erling Haaland and his Norwegian team-mates in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Saturday.

The importance of these two Norwegian stars to the national team is obvious – but their journeys at this level have been mixed.

Former Norway boss Lars Lagerback knows their intriguing stories well.

He was the man who gave Haaland his international debut – and then watched in awe as he scored six goals in his first half-dozen appearances, including a hat-trick in his sixth appearance for his country against La Romania.

“He’s fantastic,” Lagerback – also a former Sweden boss and the man who led Iceland to the Euro quarter-finals and that famous victory over England – told Sky Sports.

“I’ve had the privilege of having fantastic players over the years, but I’ve never known…he was 19 when I first took him on. You can compare him to Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Henrik Larsson or whoever you want, but at that age they were nowhere near his level.

“He’s in every way, unique, I think.”

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Scotland assistant John Carver is hoping Norwegian striker Erling Haaland won’t benefit from warm weather training ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifiers in Norway.

Haaland was at Red Bull Salzburg when he got the call to join his country’s top ranks.

After bursting onto the scene at Molde in his native country, his spell in Austria saw him continue to gain momentum and shortly after his debut for Norway he was transferred to Borussia Dortmund to continue his rapid development.

As well as his talent, it was the clever management of his progress that impressed Lagerback – the milestones that elevated him to European dominance with Man City.

He was a special player when he first came to the national team. But if you had asked me when he should have scored more than 30 goals in his first season in the Premier League… wow!

“But he was very smart and I think that’s something for other players to learn if you get to high levels too quickly – because he was very smart in the way he picked clubs.”

Odegaard’s transition during the first seasons of his career was not so simple. Wanted across Europe as a young player, the hype around him was out of scale. He became Norway’s youngest player at 15 and signed for Real Madrid at 16.

At the Spanish giants he struggled to find a way into the first team and a series of loans followed, with spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse, Real Sociedad and Arsenal before starting to realize his potential in the north of London.

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Take a look at all of Martin Odegaard’s goals in the 2022-23 Premier League season so far.

There had been 18 months without a senior call during that difficult period, with Lagerback finally having Odegaard reinstated in the squad in November 2017, having started to find his feet during those Eredivisie loan deals.

As Odegaard now prepares for his half-century of national team appearances, Lagerback says the first spell of his career demonstrated the midfield mental toughness that eventually, perhaps inevitably, brought him to the top of the game.

“With Erling it was not a problem,” Lagerback says of the pair’s adaptation to international football. “When he was 19 it was so special. With Martin because he made his debut at 15, when I arrived he had problems then because he was at Real Madrid, he trained in the second team… then he was loaned several times for two seasons, two different clubs in Holland.

“So I thought it was better for him than playing with the U21s. He wasn’t with me the first year. But then the second stint, when he came to Holland, he found a coach [who suited him] and got a central role in the team. So I brought him back to the national team.

“But it was mainly because he wasn’t playing a lot and there was a lot of issues around that loan and stuff. But his personality was 100%. I mean, Martin, with all that loan and go so early in Madrid, his mental strength… I’m so impressed that he went through it all and finally found a good way to come in and be with him now. [Arsenal manager] Mikel Arteta and the way they play suit him perfectly.

“But you need mental toughness. And these are two guys who really have it.

“They loved training, there were no problems coaching them, they really want to do well in every way, both as individuals but also for the team.”

Delivering Norway to a first major tournament since 2000 is the next target for Haaland and Odegaard. Despite all the warnings about their form heading into Saturday, Scotland will have to be wary of these Scandinavian stars to disrupt their strong start to the campaign.

Follow Norway v Scotland with Sky Sports’ live blog on the website and app on Saturday, kick off at 5pm.

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