Soccer starts up again in Norway

Molde set to lead in Eliteserien, Brann fired up in Toppserien

Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen / NTB
Molde’s Veton Berisha (right) warms up before the season opener against Tromsø.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

ELITESERIEN: 

Molde won its last 17 games last season to comfortably win Eliteserien by 18 points (25 wins—3 draws—2 losses, 78 points) over two-time defending champ Bodø/Glimt. The team outscored opponents 71:25. On 2023 opening day, April 10, Tromsø stunned Molde 1-0.

That is likely to be a blip. While it lost some players, Molde also fortified itself with significant additions. They have four national team players.

MF Magnus Wolff Eikrem has been an anchor for his hometown team since 2018, with 32 goals, 45 assists (6-7 last year). He’s been part of four of Molde’s five titles, all won since 2011. Another key returnee is MF Ola Brynhildsen (11G).

The biggest addition is F Veton Berisha, who totaled 46 goals, 15 assists for Viking in 2020-21. From Tromsø comes MF Eric Kitolano (13-5). D Kristian Eriksen came over from Ham-Kam after 16 matches last season and was 2-6 in 13 appearances for Molde. In 2021, he had 13-9.

Bodø/Glimt

2022 Record: 18-6-6-60 pts (2nd) Goals for:Against: 86:41 Key losses: Ola Solbakken 4-6. Ulrik Saltnes out with arm injury. Key returnees: F Amahl Pellegrino (25-10); MF Hugo Vetlesen (16-7); F Runar Espejord (12-3); MF Patrick Berg Key addition: F Faris Moumbagna 5G for Kristiansund in 2022. Outlook: After winning the title in 2020 and 2021 and finishing second in 2022, B/G is in the top tier. They scored the most goals and have six national team players.

Rosenborg 

2022 Record: 16-8-6-56 (3rd) Goals for:Against: 69:44 Key returnees: D Leo Cornic, (3-2); D Erlend Reitan (3-3); American D Samual Rogers  (6-1); F Carlo Holse, (3-13) Key additions: MF Isak Snær Thorvaldsson (14-7 for Breidablik [Iceland]; F Oscar Aga, (24G for Elfsborg [Sweden] in 2021); F Agon Sadiku  (14-0 for Honka [Finland]) Outlook: Rosenborg hasn’t won Eliteserien since 2017. There have been coaching changes and disappointing play. Their tradition merits being included here, but they finished 22 points behind rival Molde. Looks like they’ve added scoring.

Vålerenga

2022 Record: 13-5-12-44 (6th) Goals for:Against: 52:49 Key returnees: D Vegar Eggen Hedenstad  (2-2); MF Henrik Bjørdal (4-1 in 2022, 4-5 in 2021); F Torgeir Børven (5-2 in 13 games; 21-4 with Odd in 2019); Key additions: F Mohamed Ofkir (13-7 for Sandefjord); D Henrik Heggheim (Brondby [Denmark]); MF Daniel Håkans (Jerv). Outlook: Don’t have enough to seriously challenge Molde and Bodø/Glimt. Håkans scored in the first game of the season.

Tromsø 

2022 Record: Tromsø 10-13-7-46 (7th) Goals for:Against: 49-43 Key returnees: MF Kent-Are Antonsen (11-4 in 2020 when Tromsø was in OBOS-ligaen); MF Ruben Jenssen; MFs Lasse Nilsen; Sakarias Opsahl (2-6); Ds Jostein Maurstad Gundersen; Christophe Psyche (7-1 in 2019 for Kristiansund); Niklas Brøndsted Vesterlund Nielsen. Key addition: F Vegard Erlien (14-5 for Ranheim in OBOS-ligaen). Outlook: Will see if Tromsø builds on Molde victory. Newcomer Erlien scored the lone goal against Molde.

Brann 

Key returnees: F Bård Finne (16-6); F Aune Heggebø (13-3), F Mathias Rasmussen,  (15-10); D Svenn Crone (2-11); MF Sivert Heltne Nilsen (5-9); F Ole Blomberg (5-6); MF Frederik Børsting (4-2). Outlook: Brann announced its return to Eliteserien with 3-0 win over Haugesund in the opener. Finne scored two of the goals. Looks like they have some scorers.

Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB
Brann’s Maria Brochmann heads the ball away from Kolbotn during the Norwegian Championship semifinal on Sept. 14, 2022.

TOPPSERIEN

The Toppserien playoff idea was one-and-done after last year’s inaugural. Now, the 10 teams will play each other three times, lengthening the schedule from 18 to 27 matches.

Brann 

Brann (14-3-1-53:13-45) will be looking for a three-peat, though will get challenges from Rosenborg and Vålerenga. Moving on were Tuva Hansen, Svava Gudmundsdottir, Therese Sessy Åsland, and Guro Bergsvand.Top returnees are national teamer D Marit Lund, (6-10 in 2022; 2021 Player of the Year) who had 2 goals, 1 assist in the first two matches in 2023; MFs Maria Brochmann (7-4 in 2022, 60 goals in 9 seasons), Nora Eide Lie (5-6) and Rakel Engesvik (5-2), and national teamers MF Rikke Bogetveit Nygård (5-6 in 14 matches last season for Vålerenga, before coming to Brann) and keeper Aurora Watten Mikalsen; Ds Marthine Østenstad and Ingrid Stenevik.

A major addition is national teamer MF Andrine Hegerberg, Ada Hegerberg’s sister, who played for Hacken [Sweden] after toiling for AS Roma in Italy from 2019 to 2021. Also new are F Larissa Crummer (8-2 in 2021 to 2022 for Brisbane in Australia’s A league), and American F Alyssa Walker (9-3 for Kalmar [Sweden]).

Rosenborg 

2022 Record: 13-2-3-41 (2nd) Goals For:Against: 40:12 Key returnees: National teamers Fs Emilie Nautnes (7-2); Anna Jøsendal (6-5); Synne Hansen (4-6); MFs Cesilie Andreassen (4-4);  Kristine Wigdahl Hegland-Minde, Iceland national teamer Selma Sol Magnusdottir (5-1); Ds Mathilde Harviken (23 matches played) and Mali Næss (24 mp). Outlook: Rosenborg has an envious record the last few years, but it hasn’t resulted in a championship. They are loaded with five Norwegian national team players and one Iceland national teamer. Could this be the year Rosenborg reaches the summit?

Vålerenga

2022 Record: 12-3-3-39 (3rd) Goals For: Against: 48:12 Key returnees: National teamers: Fs Elise Thorsnes (19-3); Karina Sævik; MF Thea Bjelde (3-5) and D Andrine Tomter (17 mp); Denmark national teamers Ds Janni Thomsen (7-11) and Stine Pedersen (23 mp) and Iceland national teamer D Ingibjörg Sigurdardottir; F Olaug Tvedten (7-5); Ms  Stine Brekken (2-3), and Ylinn Tennebø (17 mp). Key addition: F Mawa Sesay. Outlook: With four Norwegian national teamers, two Denmark and one Iceland, Vålerenga looks strong. Sævik scored two goals in the first two matches, and 17-year-old Sesay has chipped in a goal.

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.