Future & present of Norwegian soccer
Ødegaard & Haaland
Jo Christian Weldingh
Erling Braut Haaland, 19, and Martin Ødegaard, 20, have impressed international soccer audiences this fall with several impressive performances. Ødegaard, with his near perfect technique and outstanding passing play, has been one of the best players in La Liga, the Spanish league, so far, while Haaland has surpassed even the most optimistic predictions in his first full season with the Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg, scoring 17 goals in 10 matches. Alongside fellow national team players midfielder Sander Berge, 21, and defender Kristoffer Ajer, 21, they are the beginning of what seems to be a promising future for Norwegian soccer.
Having played only one league game in Spanish soccer, coming off the Real Madrid bench in the final game of the 2014-15 season, Ødegaard has made a comeback in La Liga this season after three seasons on loan to Dutch clubs Heerenveen and Vitesse. Ødegaard, who is still under contract with the Madrid club, is currently on a two-year loan deal with Real Sociedad. His recent performances have not gone unnoticed, not even in the Spanish capital.
Real Sociedad is fifth in the league, and Ødegaard has been at the forefront of that strong start. He seems to be finally showing the promise, which made Real Madrid sign him as a 16-year-old back in 2015. Real Madrid’s ambitions at the time were to develop Ødegaard into a first-team player.
Ødegaard has played every minute of every match for Sociedad this season, and his contributions to their game go far beyond his two goals and two assists. The midfielder has the fourth-most successful dribbles in La Liga, while he is tied for the highest number of key passes along with Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos. Ødegaard was also named La Liga’s Player of the Month in September. These stats show that Ødegaard is becoming one of the league’s most influential playmakers.
“The aim is for Ødegaard to be incorporated into the Real Madrid first-team squad from next season, though the Norwegian wants to know what his role would be on the team,” Marca, a Madrid-based newspaper with excellent sources within the Real Madrid organization, recently wrote.
Real Sociedad will face Real Madrid on their grounds in November, giving Ødegaard a chance to show off his skills against the squad he’s trying to break into.
When last year’s soccer season started, very few knew who Molde’s striker Haaland was, but when the season ended, Haaland had become one of the league’s biggest names. The 6’4” striker had scored 14 goals in 30 matches and been signed by the Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg.
In the under-20 World Cup in May, Haaland set a world record when he scored nine goals in Norway’s 12-0 victory over Honduras. “I think I should have scored 10,” he said with a smile. “It’s a shame, but in the end I’m happy with nine.”
In September, Haaland became the first teenager since Wayne Rooney to score a hat trick in his Champions League debut, when his team beat Belgian team Genk 6-2. Even more impressive, Haaland did it in the first half of the game. Berge plays for Genk.
The hat trick was, incredibly, his fourth hat trick of the season, a season that has made him one of the hottest new names in soccer. Haaland, who is the son of former Premier League player and Norwegian national Alf-Inge Haaland, has become front page news all over Europe in the last month.
Salzburg’s assistant manager has been quoted as calling Haaland “The worst player to play against” because of his size, speed, and goal-scoring ability. On Oct. 2, he came off the bench and scored four minutes later in a 4-3 loss at Liverpool in a Champions League game.
After his recent performances, Haaland has been linked to Manchester United. He was born when his father played for Leeds United and has previously stated that his dream is to one day play in the Premier League.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the October 18, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.