Norway and Slovenia bowed out of UEFA EURO 2000 after a hard-fought draw that suited neither team in Arnhem.
Both sides went into the game with hopes of advancing to the last eight alive but a meeting as high on energy as it was short of attacking ideas ultimately ended goalless. That allowed Spain and the team they beat 4-3, Yugoslavia, to finish first and second in Group C, Yugoslavia advancing courtesy of a superior head-to-head record against third-place Norway.
Norway had been expected to progress and quickly went on the offensive with Tore André Flo, John Carew and Steffen Iversen, playing despite a broken nose, knocking at the door. Slovenia defended desperately, all full-blooded blocks and last-ditch clearances as they withstood the bombardment, waiting for a ceasefire.
It came midway through the opening period and Slovenia began to make their own incursions into opposition territory. Miran Pavlin went close with a header and just before the half-hour Ermin Šiljak screwed wide after a corner was cleared straight to him. Pavlin whistled an opportunist shot wide as Slovenia really began to open up but that ought to have suited Norway.
Yet any space for their four strikers was not forthcoming. Instead they relied on dead-ball situations and long-distance efforts, most notably when Erik Mykland cleverly flicked a free-kick up for Iversen to volley just wide. Eirik Bakke, on for Carew, wasted another chance with a wild drive over the bar but Slovenia, too, were asking questions.
Knowing only a win would do – with 15 minutes to go and Spain losing 3-2 to Yugoslavia a point was enough for Norway – Srečko Katanec's men began to throw caution to the wind. The superb Zlatko Zahovič and Šiljak were combining well, their exciting double act lacking only the killer punch line. Norway's uncompromising style was proving tough to crack.
They held on, and when the final whistle went they initially thought they were through; news of Spain's dramatic last-minute winner confirmed their exit.
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