STOCKHOLM, March 13 — Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is ready to lead Norway’s youthful soccer revolution and bid for qualification for the finals of a major tournament again after being named captain, despite being one of the youngest players in new manager Stale Solbakken’s squad.
Odegaard was 1-1/2 years old the last time the Norwegians made it to a major finals, where they were knocked out at the group stage of Euro 2000 in Netherlands and Belgium. But with striker Erling Braut Haaland tearing it up in European club football for Borussia Dortmund, that long drought may be about to end.
“We have Erling and many others, so it’s about making the most of the strengths that we have,” Odegaard said as he took time out from preparing for tomorrow’s North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to speak to reporters in an online media conference.
The 20-year-old Haaland has scored 10 goals in this season’s Champions League, four more than French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe.
“Obviously when we have someone like Erling we have to get as much as we can out of him, but there’s 10 other men on the pitch who are going to play. In my opinion we have a very good team with a good mix, with those who are more established and some who are younger and who have played together.
“It’s about continuing to build on what we have done in recent years,” he said.
The Norwegians missed out on qualifying for the Euro finals that will take place in June and July, and there are those in Norway who think the country should boycott the World Cup in Qatar over human rights concerns, if Odegaard and his team qualify.
“It’s fantastic to have so many in Norway who care about such an important and difficult thing ... I think the best thing now is to discuss how we best can affect change. Whether there’s a boycott or not, I think it’s important to focus on how we can make changes,” Odegaard said.
The 22-year-old said he didn’t expect the extra responsibility of the captaincy to affect his own ability to perform.
“For my part it’s something that spurs me on and is exciting. I’ve been used to handling the media for a long time,” he said. — Reuters