Could Hearts again play a vital role in Norwegian
DATE: 21.06.2016 - SOCCERVOICE - NEWS - SEASON 2016-17
Norway as a
football nation is currently finding themselves in a place they
would like to climb heavilly away from
During the 90's, Norway became a phenomena in international football,
defeating nations such as Brazil, Italy and England. Reaching the 94
and 98 World Cup and also the 2000 Euro Finals.
A number of players such as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tore Andre Flo,
Rune Bratseth and Erik Thorstvedt made Norwegian football known for
producing exceptional talent. Footballers were at a time among the
best export articles together with oil and fish.
A number of changes were done in Norwegian football during the late
90's and early parts of this century to increase the level and make
it even better, but it never worked out the way it should and
discussions goes on about this even today as the Norwegian football
In Norway they changed the league system, increasing the number of
teams in the top divison. They changes the "law" to get more
children involved in football, by not being able to pick the best
players for teams before the age of 13.
A key claim was also that the national team under especially Aage
Hareide made a change in style of play, going back to more normal
form of football without extreme focus on few touches and direct to
Other countries and previous buyers of Norwegian football talent
also confirms that lower export of players is heavilly related to
the price. When the export was on it's highest level, a Norwegian
player was one you could get for a good price, today they are a bit
So why involve Hearts of Midlothian in this article ?
Lars Lagerback, the mastermind behind the Iceland national team, is
the new boss of Norway, and in his search for talent he recently
found Bjorn Maars Johnsen. A player few or no one in Norway had any
The Hearts forward can probably not be described as "Norwegian", but
his father is from Norway. Johnsen also grew up in Norway for a
while, close to Oslo, and had a few years at the academy at top
division club Valerenga. He also played at senior level with level
three club Tonsberg for a short while. But the US born, who is not
speaking Norwegian publicly, was very proud to represent the country
of his father.
Johnson's road to fame has not been one that you would think was the
ideal path. After his brief spell at Tonsberg he joined Antequera in
Spain. A club at fourth level in the Spanish league system. He was
noticed by level three club CD Atletico Baleares and a new move
He just played 10 games for CD Atletico before his next move. A
third level club in Portugal, Louletano signed him, and here
progress really started, scoring 10 goals in 28 games.
He then signed for another third level club, Atletico Club de
Portugal, based in Lisbon, and things went well, scoring 14 goals in
27 games. He was again noticed, this time by Bulgarian top club
The move to Litex Lovech was one that made it possible for Maars
Johnsen to get a chance at a really good level against good
oppenents, and he continued to score goals as he had done before at
lower level teams in Spain and Portugal.
After scoring 12 goals in 33 games for Litex, he was signed by
Hearts. At Hearts he has scored 6 goals in 34 league games during
his first full season. His move to Scotland could have been vital
for his chance to play for Norway. This league gets a bit of
attention from Norway as games are shown live on telly from the SPL,
and he was noticed by national coach Lagerback.
Johnson's inclusion in the squad was "big news" in Norway, and
Lagerback also played him first as a sub against The Czech Republic
and later from start in the friendly v. Sweden. Johnson was close to
scoring, both games ended in draws 1-1, and it was progress to see.
Johnson's inclusion was one also said to be a "game changer" for
Norway, bringing in something "extreme", a tall forward, 1.95 m, and
a bit unknown. The same happened in the early 90's, when a certain
Jostein Flo, also was a "big surprise".
"The Flo Pass" mostly coming from former Liverpool defender Stig
Inge Bjorneby became an expression in Norwegian football. A long
ball from Norway's own half, to the wing, where Flo operated and won
every duel against smaller build players, mostly full backs.
This pass upset the opponent so much that other nations feared this
heavilly. Former England boss Graham Taylor was trapped by this and
played Gary Pallister to stop the pass, which resulted in other
midfielders using that as an advantage in other parts of the game.
Norway boss Egil Olsen masterminded this type of tactics as big
nations failed to understand and by that Norway defeated a number of
great football nations and with this form of tactical moves and
defensive skills won vital games and qualified for the World Cup and
Johnsen will probably not be part of such tactical moves, but his
height and strengths in the game could suit Norway and make a climb
in the FIFA rankings. Norway are currently 87 in the ranking, behind
nations such as Benin, Faroe Islands, Congo and Syria.
The club Hearts is special in Norway, because one of the best
players and the youngest capped player, before Martin Odegaard,
Roald "Kniksen" Jensen, used to play for Hearts from 1965 to 1971.
As far as we know, no other Norwegian has played for Hearts since
Jensen, before Johnsen appeared. Hopefully this will be a good start
in the search for new and better results regarding the national
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