Preview: Spain vs. Norway
Luis de la Fuente will take charge of his first match as Spain head coach on Saturday evening, as La Roja face Norway in their opening Euro 2024 qualification fixture.
Spain have not been in action since losing on penalties to Morocco in the last-16 stage of the 2022 World Cup, while Norway last featured in a friendly in November 2022, playing out a 1-1 draw with Finland.
Spain are entering a new era under head coach De la Fuente, who has replaced Luis Enrique at the helm, with the latter leaving following the disappointment of the 2022 World Cup.
La Roja, having reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, were fancied as a dark horse for the tournament in Qatar, but they were beaten by Morocco on penalties in the round of 16, with the national side struggling to impress in the World Cup since winning the competition in 2010.
Spain’s focus is now on securing qualification for Euro 2024, and they have been drawn in Group A alongside Cyprus, Georgia, Norway and Scotland.
In truth, it would be a shock if La Roja did not top this particular section, but it is difficult to know exactly what to expect, as De la Fuente has made wholesale changes to the squad, with the 61-year-old – previously in charge of Spain at Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 level – determined to make his mark.
Spain will face Norway and Scotland during this particular international break, before turning their attention to the UEFA Nations League, facing Italy in the semi-finals of the competition in the middle of June.
Norway, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the finals of the 2022 World Cup, and they have not actually been present at the competition since 1998.
The Lions have also been missing from the finals of a European Championship since 2000, which is an indication of the size of the task facing head coach Stale Solbakken.
Norway were last in action towards the end of 2022, playing two friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Finland, beating the former 2-1 before drawing 1-1 with the latter.
Solbakken’s side will feel that they are strong enough to claim a top-two position in this section, and the national team will look to standout players Martin Odegaard and Erling Braut Haaland for inspiration, although the latter has been forced to withdraw from the latest squad due to a groin injury.
Norway have won one and lost five of their previous eight matches against Spain, but the points were shared in a 1-1 draw when they last met during qualification for Euro 2020.
Spain form (all competitions):
Norway form (all competitions):
We say: Spain 1-0 Norway
This has the potential to be a very tricky match for Spain, as Norway have a lot of talent in their ranks. The absence of Haaland is a huge boost for the home team, though, and we are backing La Roja to navigate their way to an important three points in their section opener.