Goalkeeper Unai Simon said Spain must keep deadly Norway striker Erling Haaland far away from its goal on Sunday in an important EURO 2024 qualifier.
La Roja can book its place in Germany next summer with a win in Oslo, but Haaland and Norway stand in their way, desperately chasing victory to give themselves a chance of progress.
Manchester City forward Haaland was injured when Spain beat Norway 3-0 in March but scored twice on Thursday against Cyprus to keep his country’s EURO 2024 hopes alive.
If Norway fail to win Group A leaders Scotland would qualify, while Spain would then be able to guarantee their place at the tournament with a victory in either of their last two games.
“We see how decisive (Haaland) is in the box in every game,” Simon told a news conference on Saturday.”Any ball Haaland touches in the box could be a goal, whether it’s an aerial ball, a low one, left foot or right foot, he’s a born goalscorer.”
“We’ll try to keep him as far from the box as possible, as far from our goal, and when he’s in our area, make sure he doesn’t touch the ball - he’s got an out-of-the-ordinary probability of scoring,” said the Athletic Bilbao player.
Haaland took the English top flight by storm last season after arriving at Man City from Borussia Dortmund, netting 36 in the Premier League to break the competition’s all-time single-season record. The 23-year-old striker has scored 27 goals in 27 appearances for the Norway national team.
When asked about Haaland, Spain coach Luis de la Fuente said that his team would stay alert to stop the forward, and Norway’s other threats. “We will try to be at our best, to go out there with total concentration to contain the opponent’s attacks,” said the coach.
“(Haaland) is a specialist in dynamic attacking but I’m very happy with the work of our centre-backs, we’ll try to counter these characteristics -- not just of Haaland but other dangerous players.”
Norway playmaker Martin Odegaard said he thought Haaland was the world’s best footballer earlier on Saturday, but also highlighted his team has other assets.
“It’s true that Haaland is the best in the world, but there are more (players),” said Arsenal midfielder Odegaard. “We know what Haaland is, but everyone has a lot to offer -we play as a team.”
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