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All eyes may be on Scotland's defence stopping Erling Haaland in Oslo tomorrow evening as Steve Clarke's side look to continue their 100 per cent start to Euro 2024 qualifying.

But Clarke is not the type of manager to put all of his eggs in one basket and while he will be all too aware of the threat posed by the Manchester City striker, he will also know that there any number of players in the Norway side that are capable of torpedoing his hopes of the win that would keep Scotland limpet-like at the top of the Group A standings.

This is not by accident or gene-pool freakery. Norway, perennial tournament qualifiers for a spell at the end of the 20thcentury, lost their way spectacularly but they have been a coming force in international football for a while now. For example, Haaland is not the only global star in their ranks. The Arsenal captain, Martin Odegaard, was one of the players of the year in the Premier League season that has just ended while a number of Stale Solbakken's squad can be found plying their trade at heavyweight European clubs – and all around the continent they are making valuable contributions: Leo Ostigard has just won the Scudetto at Napoli, Ola Solbakken played 14 times for Roma after arriving in January, Julian Ryerson was part of the Borussia Dortmund that almost won the Bundesliga, Marcus Pedersen was an Eredivisie winner at Feyenoord while Alexander Sorloth scored 16 times as Real Sociedad qualified for the Champions League. 

The Herald:

The explanation for the country's improvement as an exporter of quality produce can be found in changes that came in the aftermath of the country's most successful era at the end of the 90s and early 2000s. By the beginning of 2009, Norway were ranked 59th in the world well down from their previous high of second overall in 1995. It was clear something drastic needed to be done to improve the level of player reaching the national team. When the domestic clubs looked at the main issue they established that youth development was not what it should be and so, Rosenborg, for example, concentrated on attracting more young players at an earlier age, Valerenga worked on a plan to integrate more of the immigrant community into their programme, while league-wide clubs put self-imposed caps on the number of foreign players they were signing as a result of dwindling finances precipitated by the global financial crash of 2008.

As ever with youth development, the benefits of decisions taken in earnest tend not to come to fruition until years later. In Norway's case, one club has emerged as a clear beacon in this area. Bodo/Glimt, the side which knocked Celtic out of the Europa League two seasons ago, have been champions in two out of the last three seasons and have put up some impressive results in Europe – most notably their 6-1 demolition of Jose Mourinho's Roma in the Europa Conference League in October 2021 – are the new dominant force courtesy of their youth system. Ola Solbakken earned a move to the Italian giants off the back of those Conference League performances while of those Bodo players in the current squad Patrick Berg has played for Lens and Hugo Vetlesen – who scored twice in the two-legged victory over Celtic in February last year – is being lined up for a summer move to Brugge – a club which has a habit of turning rough diamonds in glittering jewels, while Brice Wembangomo is a recent call-up to Solbakken's squad at the age of 28. 

In short, the future looks promising for this Norway team. They have started the group slowly but should have had more than a point to show for their efforts. Crucially, in their opening group games against Spain and Georgia they were without Haaland and Odegaard. Ominously for Scotland, their strong supporting cast will be emboldened by the return of two leading lights with Hollywood star quality.