ULLEVAAL (VG) Venice player Dennis Tørset Johnsen (23) refused to play for the under-21 team with Leif Gunnar Smerud. Now he relies on the A national team with Ståle Solbakken.
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Together with Rafik Zekhnini and Tobias Heintz Johnsen finished on the edge with NFF and Smerud, and retired from national team games in the fall of 2019. By then it was clear that the trio was not wanted in the next match, which Smerud justified saying that “these are players who over time have had problems meeting the requirements and expectations placed on the players of the national team “.
Johnsen and company. In turn, they believed that the coach of the national team had frozen them and that the coach created divisions in the team. Opposite VG Johnsen complained that he did not develop as a player with Smerud and asked questions about the coach’s tactical provisions.
Smerud is still currently the coach of the U21 team. He says the players were offered a meeting the same fall, but he refers to top soccer coach Lise Klaveness on how the association further handled the conflict.
Klaveness tells VG that they don’t publish a dialogue between individual players and national team coaches.
– The path to professional A-team level is difficult and everyone involved is under pressure. It’s part of our business that she criticizes at times, and it’s part of our responsibility as a union to accommodate this and find good ways to move forward when conflicts arise, she says generally.
Klaveness supported Smerud’s decision to exclude the trio of the national team in 2019.
Accused of name discrimination
Shortly after Johnsen went tough on Smerud, his little brother, Mikael, the wreck of the U-20 team. It made the older brother react, and Johnsen claimed that Smerud discriminated by surnames.
For the national team manager, Ståle Solbakken, the noise around Johnsen was unknown and not something that he took into account in the selection of the squad for the national team matches against Turkey (8 October) and Montenegro. (October 11th).
– I have not thought, listened or considered, says the 53-year-old man when VG asked me.
Johnsen has been involved in every Venetian league match this season. The newly promoted club is third last in Serie A.
– I saw it in the newspaper now after training. It was a little shock, but it’s a lot of fun, he tells VG about the withdrawal.
Looking beyond the conflict
Solbakken tells why Johnsen, and not Belgian pro Aron Dønnum, for the first time in his career is weighted enough for an A national team.
– We see all the players from time to time. Lately he has gained confidence and has gained a position in the team. He plays in Serie A, he’s creative, so nothing is more difficult than that. Dønnum has had a downward curve as his team is under maximum pressure. Now there may be someone who feels a flow and someone who feels a little itchy, says Solbakken.
Smerud looks beyond the conflict with Johnsen when he describes the type of player who has been signed to the national team squad. “Great speed”, “tremendous pull” and “good technical skills” stand out.
– I have not followed it as closely as Ståle and them, since it has not been relevant. But there is no doubt that Dennis Johnsen has very good qualities. I think it’s like Ståle says, that he has become a more collective player. The individualist Dennis Johnsen, no one has questioned him, neither Ajax nor I, Smerud tells VG today.