Norway coach Tor Ole Skullerud emphasised that the collective spirit is what will take his men far in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, and warned his squad that there will be no place for egos in the camp.
The coach breathed a sigh of relief after all his players arrived at the training camp injury free. He is set to drill his men hard ahead of the Group A opener against hosts Israel on Wednesday, before hitting home the point that, for this squad, it is not about the individual, with England and Italy also in their section.
"We will focus on collective work and finding a starting XI for the opening match," said the coach. "Our strength is in the morale and the collective. We will get the players to leave their egos at the door, and get back to the togetherness that symbolised the team in 2012."
That spirit of 2012 served the side well in qualification, culminating in the remarkable 5-3 win against France which secured their place in Israel. Skullerud is hoping the methods that got his side this far will continue to bear fruit.
"We hope to be defensively solid, while we hope that the players will blossom offensively as they did in the latter half of 2012. If the team plays up to its potential, I am certain that we will give Israel a good game. One of our main focuses will be to work on dead-ball situations."
He has no doubts about the footballing ability of the players in his squad, but is more uncertain about their capacity to cope mentally with the final tournament atmosphere. "These players have never played an opening game in a finals before. How do we tackle that? How do the Israeli players tackle a finals at home? We cannot prepare the players for everything, but what I can say is that we will aim for a good start. The team that is best prepared mentally will probably win," Skullerud asserted.
The coach will have to make do without Markus Henriksen, Joshua King, Håvard Nordtveit and Valon Berisha for the opener, with all on senior duty for next Friday's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Albania. The quartet will join the squad for the game against England, but since that match is the day after the Albania game, the four players are unlikely to start against Stuart Pearce's side.
"This is how it is when our Under-21 players are of such good quality that they are in contention for the senior side. This is a compromise we can live with."
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