By 90Min
September 29, 2019

The Scandinavian nations, for their sparse populace in comparison to the world's footballing powerhouses, have given a fair bang for their buck over the years. 

Sweden, major tournament mainstays with an exception or two, have famously given us the likes of Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Denmark, the home of Christian Eriksen, the Laudrups and the Schmeichels, have that famous European Championship win in 1992 to their name. 

The close proximity of the Swedes, the Danes and the Norwegians can often lead to us grouping their successes together, so when you realise the latter have only made four major tournaments in their history - the last coming in 2000 - it seems very surprising. 

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But that is the case. No matter which way you look at it, Lars Lagerback's side are the odd man out of the Nordic region's big three. 

The way things are going, though, that may not be for long. 

For Norway, they've been standing at the bus stop since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer waiting on a top class talent to come along and do for them what Eriksen has done for their neighbours, what Gareth Bale has done for Wales, and what Mohamed Salah has done for Egypt.


It's been a long, cold, dreary wait - but in the distance, it seems as if two are about to come along at once.

The emerging duo of Erling Haaland and Martin Ödegaard are the envy of world football at present. At 19 and 20 respectively, the pair have taken the footballing world by storm with their starts to the season at club level; yet have taken very different routes to the fringes of the top. 

For Ödegaard, he's already had enough fame, infamy and everything that comes along with it to last him a career. So much was made of his potential when he arrived at Real Madrid from Strømsgodset that when his first loan spell didn't quite go to plan, he was written off by many as having burned out before his 18th birthday.


In reality though, spells with Heerenveen and Vitesse Arnhem - the latter far more fruitful than the first - saw him cut his teeth in one of Europe's big leagues. And since returning to Spain - albeit on loan to Sociedad rather than in the coveted ranks of his parent side - the next step in his evolution has seen him move inside from the right wing and make the number ten role his own. 

His ability in that position was underlined by that mind-bending assist for Mikel Oyarzabal against Deportivo Alaves a couple of weeks back, and while Norway had previously opted to use him a wide player for the bulk of his 19 caps - with Josh King or Mohamed Elyounoussi most frequently occupying the space behind the striker - Ödegaard's start there in their recent 1-1 draw with Sweden indicates a willingness to adapt the team in order to get the best from him.

That draw with their next door neighbours was the second of a European qualifying double-header that saw Haland - on fire in Austria for Red Bull Salzburg - make his first senior appearances as a Løvene player. He started the routine win over Malta, and emerged from the bench against Sweden, as Lagerback opts to break him in gently for the time being.

At club level, though, the Leeds-born target man is on the sort of form that was previously reserved for grossly over-powered created players in FIFA. He sits on a tally of 17 (seventeen) goals in ten games for Salzburg, and marked his Champions League bow with a hat trick in the 6-2 trouncing of Genk. Internationally, he made history when he scored nine goals in a single match against Honduras at the Under-20 World Cup, and has recorded 23 goals in his 22 appearances at Under-18 level and upwards. 

Given that he plays for a country whose striking options are Josh King and Alexander Alexander Sørloth, it's a pretty safe bet he'll make himself first choice between now and 2022.

How to get the best of players such as Haaland and Ödegaard on the international stage is far from a science, and often doesn't work out - you only have to look at Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for that one. But tactically, it doesn't take Pep Guardiola to figure this one out. 

Norway most typically play with a 4-4-2 that morphs into a 4-2-3-1 with the second striker dropping into the hole. The 'wide' players - often re-purposed central midfielders such as Johansen, Ole Selnæs or Markus Henriksen - are required to keep it tight and provide the platform for the more creative players to thrive. 

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With Haaland's physicality leading the line and occupying the central defenders, the system seems almost perfectly suited for Ödegaard to be given licence to roam and wreak havoc between the lines.

While the duo have barely played together, they seem compatible on the face of it, and very blatantly have the potential to become the best players available to Lagerback, if they aren't already. The combination may take some getting used to, with Haaland accustomed to playing with another out and out striker and the concept of playing off a target man not yet familiar to Ödegaard.

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But with three years of learning each other's game under their belts, Qatar 2022 could easily find itself acting as the stage for the unveiling of one of the next generation's most prolific double-acts. And that is something we should all be looking forward to.

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