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Despite his side shipping nine goals in two friendlies against the Netherlands (4-1) and Spain (5-2) in the space of five days, Valon Berisha remains confident about Norway's UEFA European Under-21 Championship prospects.
"We have a chance in Israel," the FC Salzburg midfielder told UEFA.com. "We have a talented team and have been playing together for a long time, so I believe we can at least qualify for the semi-finals."
Rosenberg BK midfielder Jonas Svensson also noted that – come the finals – there may be a freshness in the Norwegian players' legs that their opponents might lack. "We've only just started our season in Norway and most of us have only played one game, so by the time we get to June we should be in better shape," he explained.
"It could be an advantage that we are in the middle of our season, because other countries may be tired coming to the end of theirs; maybe we can use that to our advantage."
The friendly results over the last five days have not been good on paper, but when he looked back on Monday night's defeat by the Netherlands, Berisha could identify plenty of mitigating factors in his side's favour. Reduced to ten men after just 11 minutes, Norway led through substitute Flamur Kastrati's goal after the break and would have gone 2-0 up had Harmeet Singh's penalty not been saved.
"If we had played with 11 men for the entire game then we would have had a good chance of winning," noted Berisha. "As it was, we did well with ten men and worked together as a team. Had we scored the penalty we could have held out for victory. At half-time we said we should keep working hard and try to hit them on the counterattack. We succeeded, scored and got the penalty, but the last 20 minutes were very hard because we tired."
Svensson agreed. "It was a good team performance," he said. "We had a man sent off after ten minutes so we knew it would be difficult but we just kept going and took our chances. We almost made it 2-0 but in the end we lost 4-1; that's football. They only equalised after about 70 minutes, but in the end we were very tired and they had a lot of space to play the ball. They are good, quick football players.
"This was obviously a very different game to the one against Spain because we only had ten men, but actually we were better tonight and had more possession," added the 20-year-old. "Against Spain we didn't have much of the ball, so I think we can be proud of how we played for 70 minutes."
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