Scandinavian spotlight: Molde Champions Elect, Relegation Looms, Euro Delight and Despair
Despite this weekend's international break last week saw a few important happenings, not least in Norway where the top two clashed, and relegation tussles in both Sweden and Norway.
A win for Molde a week on Sunday at home to Odd Grenland will secure their first ever title. The champions-elect knocked Tromsø out of the chase when they went north and defeated their hosts 2-0 last Sunday with first half goals from Forren (30) and Berget (36). Tromsø had no answer in the second half and put up a surprisingly tame fight allowing Molde to comfortably see out the game. Despite coming from a small town the local heroes should clinch the title in front of a near sell-out crowd of 11,800 in the Aker Stadion. A draw will be enough if Rosenborg fail to win in the later kick-off at home to Aalesunds. The gap is 10 points but RBK have a game in hand. Rosenborg kept things tasty with an emphatic 5-2 victory in Lillestrøm last Friday.
Sarpsborg lost 2-0 away to Stabæk and are relegated. Start's goalless draw at Aalesunds keeps them alive for another week but they remain seven behind both Sogndal and Fredrikstad. Given their poor goal difference even defeat for both clubs above them will result in relegation if they get anything other than a win. There is no play-off this season although it has been used in the past and the teams likely to be promoted from the Adeccoliga include current one and two Sandnes Ulf and Ham-Kam, although everyone down to eighth placed Bryne are still in with a shout.
As reported last week Helsingborgs are now seven-time champions in Sweden with Elfsborg, AIK Stockholm and Hacken still fighting it out for the two Europa League places. At the other end Halmstads are already down but second bottom Trelleborgs will still hope results go their way and they can catch Syrianska and Norrkøpping. Whoever finishes in 14th spot will also have to contend with the dreaded play-off against the third placed side in the Superettan, currently Angelholm, although everyone down to seventh placed Landskrona could mathematically still do it.
With a third of the league programme completed in Denmark, FC Copenhagen's serene progress towards another title was slightly dented when they only drew 1-1 at home to AGF Arhus on Sunday. Midtjylland closed the gap to eight with a 1-0 result at home to Horsens on Monday. Arhus remain in third, 10 off the pace, as are Nordsjælland who were 1-0 winners over Sonderjyske. Troubled Brøndby eased their worries slightly with a 1-0 win over second bottom Lyngby for only their third win bonus of the season.
Now that domestic hostilities are on ice for a week it's back to Euro 2012 qualifying action with all three Scandinavian teams still in with a chance of making it through, although Norway are definitely the outsiders. Only a resounding win in their final game against Cyprus on Tuesday in Oslo coupled with unlikely results for both Denmark and Portugal will get the Norwegians to Poland and Ukraine. Top dogs Portugal host Iceland this evening while the Danes travel to Cyprus, both looking for the substantial wins that will all but eliminate Norway. As Norway versus Cyprus kicks off the top two play each other in Copenhagen both seeking the victory which will guarantee a finals place.
Sweden could seal their place in the play-off draw with a win tonight in Helsinki. Should they lose then the Hungarians are poised on the same points and could sneak into the play-offs should they win against Finland at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium and Sweden suffer a second successive setback against the all-conquering Dutch in Stockholm. Although the Finns will be determined to avenge their 5-1 drubbing in June in the reverse fixture I can't see them being able to cope with a Swedish side with the attacking flair of Zlatan and Elmander backed up by Bajrami and Toivonen. I think the Swedes will make it along with Denmark, but I fear Norway have to rely on an unlikely set of circumstances and will sadly sit this one out.
Article by Iain Macfadzean