Brann is on fire in Eliteserien soccer
With 13 of 30 gamedays down, the leaders in Norwegian soccer are a surprise to all
Jo Christian Weldingh
Heading into their last game before the World Cup break June 11, league favorite Rosenborg had the opportunity to decrease Brann’s lead to four points. Instead, the team from Trondheim lost to seventh-place Tromsø 2-1, to take vacation in third place, seven points behind Brann, tied with Haugesund, and not even the best-ranked team in their home city of Trondheim.
The first half of this year’s Norwegian soccer league has been full of surprises. Before the league started in March, my prediction was that Rosenborg, Molde, Strømsgodset, and Sarpsborg 08 were the teams to beat this season (read the full article, from the March 23 issue, at: www.norwegianamerican.com/sports/rosenborg-is-eliteseriens-favorite-again). Sarpsborg 08, Molde and Strømsgodset are currently placed 5th, 8th and 12th, respectively. Molde (6 wins-2 draws-5 losses, 23) had been the early pacesetter this season but lost five of its last 10 games.
Instead, two unlikely teams are sitting at the top of the league table: Brann from Bergen, who got promoted from the second-highest level in Norwegian soccer only two years ago, and Ranheim, a squad from Trondheim filled with local amateurs, who have captured the Norwegian spectators’ hearts and minds with their enthusiastic approach to the game.
Brann’s success has mainly been a result of strict defensive organization. Their two central defenders, Vito Wormgoor and Bismar Acosta, have been two of the best players in the league so far and deserve a lot of credit for their team’s amazing results, which includes allowing only five goals in 13 games. Offensively, Steffen Lie Skålevik is tied for third in the league with six goals, and Daniel Kvande has four assists. Skålevik’s success has come as a bit of a surprise for both his team and the rest of the league. Before the season started, some experts criticised Brann for lacking offensive power and said that Skålevik wasn’t a good choice as forward. Skålevik has proved them all wrong.
Ranheim is not as well organized on defense, having let in 21 goals, but they have been the league’s best offensive team, scoring 25 goals. Mads Reginiussen, the brother of the more famous Rosenborg and Norwegian national player, Tore Reginiussen, has had his big breakthrough this season and been Ranheim’s best player overall, tied for second in the league with seven goals.
Haugesund has also had a good first half of the season. They were actually the first team to steal points from Brann this season in the 1-1 draw on May 16. Haugesund did a great job in the transfer market this winter, and is currently benefitting greatly from the acquisition of Nigerian Babajide David Akintola (three goals, four assists) from Jerv.
Rosenborg, the league favorites and titleholders, have underperformed all season and have been heavily criticized in the media. Star players like Nicklas Bendtner and Pål Andre Helland haven’t been close to the level they performed at last season.
Most notable was the critique from former coach and club legend Nils Arne Eggen. He told a local newspaper that he didn’t think the team put enough effort into their physical training and that he thought the team tactics were all wrong and that he, himself, would have gone for a simpler approach to the game.
Eggen, having won more league titles than any other Norwegian soccer coach, still has a strong presence in the Trondheim club, and his comments have made some fans wonder if coach Kåre Ingebrigtsen really is the right man to lead their club into the future.
All that being said, only 13 out of 30 games have been played, and seven points separate second and ninth place. The league trophy won’t be awarded to anyone until November.
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 June 29, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.