Per Joar Hansen has led Norway to only their second Under-21 finals, following the third-placed finish they achieved in 1998. In their qualifying group, Norway totalled 16 points from eight games, only losing to section winners England in what were two tight games. Hansen's team took on another European heavyweight in the play-offs, but France were shocked as, despite winning the first leg 1-0 at home, they crumbled in Norway where the hosts ran out 5-3 victors in a classic encounter.
That Norway's success has been mostly based on a team effort is shown in the top scorer list. Four players finished with two goals: Jo Inge Berget, Marcus Pedersen, Thomas Rogne and Harmeet Singh. Others have contributed in different ways, with Marcus Henriksen and Vegard Hedenstad offering valuable performances. It is testament to the strength of this particular crop that many of the young stars have already made their bow at senior level.
Hansen could not hide his joy when his team overcame a talented France side to book their ticket to Israel. "This shows that the Norwegian model of developing players really works," he said. "These guys never fail to surprise me with their quality. This will help Norwegian football no end. You can't read a book about how to perform during a finals. Now, 20 of our players get that experience. It's invaluable."
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