ULLEVAAL STADION (Aftenposten): Norway has used 25 different pairs of earplugs in eight years. Now Stefan Strandberg has fought for a place, after several difficult years.
Stefan Strandberg sat down and smiled behind a table, a billboard behind him. Dress in Norwegian colors from head to toe.
Strandberg was the first player sent by the NFF to meet with the press this week. It probably surprised few.
The 31-year-old from Lyngdal has become a leader in the national team. For this meeting of the national team, you have been given a daunting task: the role of vice captain. He has intervened since Sander Berge and Erling Braut Haaland are injured.
Strandberg has not always been in the center. Years have passed without international matches. A major cause has been all the damage.
– It has been frustrating and mentally tough. I received one blow after another. It was a big thank you, but it’s a thing of the past. I’m fine right now, and I bet it will be that way for many years to come, says Strandberg.
25 different pairs of stops
Strandberg has become a central part of “the new Norway”. But it is far from cool.
He made his debut for the national team eight years ago. However, that period has been problematic.
Between 2016 and 2020, he did not play internationals. During the same period, he underwent six major operations. A bad Achilles could have stopped his career. But he refused to give up.
There have been no more than 20 international matches in total.
A count of the men’s team matches in recent years gives a clear idea of where lite Strandberg self-written has been.
Since its debut, Norway has rolled out 25 different pairs of plugs. 13 different plugs have been given the opportunity, in addition to Strandberg.
But since Ståle Solbakken took over, Strandberg has always been involved. Now it has the continuity that it lacked.
– Now I have a stable training routine, where I can go out and train every day with others. Then come the achievements. Right now he’s very, very good, says Strandberg.
– You want to take him to war
As a young talent, Strandberg showed promising signs. He was part of the historic U21 national team that reached the semi-finals of the European Championship.
And Strandberg was chosen as captain by then-U21 coach Tor Ole Skullerud.
– He’s an obvious leader. The guy you want to take with you to war, says Skullerud, who now works at Eurosport.
Remember a qualifying game against England. Skullerud wasn’t sure who to use on the left back, against the great talent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He chose Strandberg, although the role was unfamiliar.
Norway lost 1-2, but Skullerud was very happy with Strandberg.
– You solved it fantastically. He takes those occasions very well. He is also good at taking others with him.
The game that counts the most now about Strandberg’s position on the national team is perhaps the one he did not play.
Against Gibraltar, Strandberg was benched. Reason? Ståle Solbakken did not want to risk missing the game against Turkey.
The stakes are high. If Norway loses, the road to the World Cup will be difficult. Tens of thousands of passionate Turks await Norway at the local Fenerbahce stadium in Istanbul.
– If you don’t look forward to what happens on Friday, you don’t have much to do in this industry, really. The best thing is to play big games with happy fans. You get all the motivation and aggression for free, says Strandberg.
And Strandberg can only rejoice, apparently. Because at the press conference nobody asked Yes he starts. Instead, VG asked him who he was starting with. Together with.
– We’ll see, Strandberg smiles.