It was unusual to see Scotland’s qualifying campaign end in an unorthodox manner, considering how straightforward it had been.
Scotland successfully completed Group A with two matches remaining by sharing six goals with Norway. Their final tally was 17 points out of a possible 24.
The highlight of the evening was a celebratory lap for Steve Clarke and his team, who have qualified for two consecutive European Championships. The details of the match seemed insignificant.
Clarke described the game as unusual, stating that it was a time for the fans to show their appreciation for the staff and team, and for others to thank the supporters. Despite securing a spot in the draw, there is still much to accomplish before next summer.
Norway’s attitude to this fixture was supposedly illustrated by their willingness to let Erling Haaland sit out. The prolific Manchester City striker took a bang to a foot during last Thursday’s friendly win over the Faroe Islands, with Norway staff insisting the injury was not serious. He was spared this evening in Glasgow, presumably to focus on upcoming club matters.
However, Norway had a statement to make. Scotland’s unexpected win in Oslo in June played a crucial role in deciding the fate of these teams’ qualification. Scotland maintained their composure and ultimately advanced from the group with Spain.
The guests began the game with a clear focus on correcting past mistakes. Scotland’s defense was uncharacteristically slow in reacting to a cross from Norway’s right side, particularly demonstrated by Nathan Patterson’s failure to effectively mark Aron Dønnum as he received the ball. Dønnum managed to get the ball past Zander Clark with the help of a deflection from Patterson.
Scotland was inspired by the objective. John McGinn’s optimism resulted in a crucial foul from Kristoffer Ajer, causing Scott McTominay’s free-kick to deflect towards Callum McGregor. The Celtic captain’s attempt was obstructed by the raised arm of Dønnum. McGinn successfully converted the penalty kick, earning his 18th goal for Scotland.
Norway edged in front again before the first quarter had played out. Scotland’s left flank – minus the injured Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney – was again exposed, Julian Ryerson this time supplying a low cross. Clark will feel he should have done better with Jørgen Strand Larsen’s close-range flick, which spun across the line. Clarke looked on aghast at the level of his team’s generosity.
In a match that had an unusual, end-of-season atmosphere, Scotland once again showed their resilience. Kenny McLean headed in a corner from Scott McTominay, and the ball deflected off Leo Østigård into Norway’s goal. Scotland didn’t necessarily deserve to be tied at halftime, but they were happy to take it. A superb block from Patterson stopped Dønnum from scoring a third goal for Norway just before the break.
When Scotland reaches the finals, Clarke will have high expectations for Tierney and Robertson to be healthy and performing well. Angus Gunn, who has recently become the first-choice goalkeeper, was also absent from this national team training. This position will be even stronger if Craig Gordon returns to his spot at Hearts after recovering from a long-term injury.
Scotland did not have the services of their main striker, Che Adams, during their matches against Georgia and Norway. Therefore, there were valid reasons for their shortcomings in those games.
Without Adams, Clarke gave Jacob Brown a rare opportunity to start the game. The forward from Luton Town should have proven his manager’s trust in him, but was unable to make contact with the ball right in front of the goal. This happened just moments before the home team took the lead for the first time. Fortunately, Brown’s mistake was overlooked thanks to Stuart Armstrong’s determination. Armstrong relentlessly pursued a seemingly lost cause and managed to regain possession. He then passed to McGinn and received the ball back before scoring at Egil Selvik’s near post.
Clark made a great save from Sander Berge while Norway was trying to score a third goal. However, Scotland’s performance in the second half was better than the first. If they had scored a fourth goal, it would have increased their chances of being placed in pot two for the finals draw, but it didn’t seem likely. In any case, pot three may be considered the more favorable option.
Norway extended Scotland’s winless run to five matches. Ryerson rampaged down the right before evading the stranded Clark with his cross. Mohamed Elyounoussi, once of Celtic, headed into the unguarded net.
“The Norway coach, Ståle Solbakken, expressed that he believed our team was superior. The final match against Scotland will forever be remembered as the defining moment of this campaign for us.”