The players stepped out onto the battered and worn grass pitch of Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo. It was Wednesday September 9, 1981, and Norway hosted England for a 1982 Spain World Cup qualifying round. Exactly one year earlier England had sent Norway off Empire Stadium, Wembley with a devastating 4-0 loss. The Norwegian side was expected to lose again for football superstar England, ranked number 8 in the world by FIFA. Norway ranked 46th in the world during the 1981 international season. It looked like a done deal for the players with three lions on their shirts.

It was not to be.

Norway, the eternal underdog. Whenever FIFA or UEFA decided on the qualifying groups for the respectively the World Cup and the European Championships, nothing was made of the fact that you had gotten Norway in your group.

The Soviet Union? Shit, let us at least try to limit the defeat.
England? Aargh. Our chances are slim. Really.
West Germany? That's it. We're never going to make it now.
Holland? Let's put all our players inside our own box. That's our only chance.

The Norwegian national football team was considered a joke and close to a walk-over.

The respect for England as a football nation went deep in the Norwegian population. In 1948 state-owned bookmaker Norsk Tipping introduced state regulated betting on English football matches. It was (and still is) known as Tippekupongen. Initially nobody quite knew if Portsmouth was a better team than Everton, Sunderland or Tottenham, but Tippekupongen eventually went on to capture the imagination and interest of the entire Norwegian male population. Discussing the weekly matches and checking results became a national pastime.

Then, in 1969 everything exploded. NRK started airing live English 1st division (now Premier League) matches every Saturday afternoon, known as Tippekampen. The Norwegian football supporters went off their hinges, turning Tippekampen into a holy Saturday ritual.

Derby County, Leicester and Coventry suddenly had supporters all the way from Norway. Hull, Leeds, Barnsley and Sunderland became household names together with Wolves, Gunners, Tractor Boys and The Kop. This noder owned official merchandise from Southampton FC, The Saints. It was long before the infamous "away and third kits" of today, so it was just your run-of-the-mill shoulder bag, but nevertheless.

Not since the Vikings had Norway regarded England as an enemy. In addition, the Norwegian Royal family had close family ties with the House of Windsor; then regent King Olav was Queen Elizabeth´s cousin.

England's overwhelming statistics against Norway made it very clear what was expected of them:

May 14, 1937, Norway vs. England, 0-6
November 9, 1937, England vs. Norway, 4-0
May 18, 1949, Norway vs. England, 1-4
June 28, 1966, Norway vs. England, 1-6
September 19, 1980, England vs. Norway, 4-0

Against this backdrop of sports, culture, history and the feeling of having someone very important visiting you, the 22 players entered Ulleval Stadion a Wednesday afternoon in September.

The Norwegian side (club in parenthesis):

The English side (club in parenthesis):

Referee: Kacprzak, Poland.

Take a look at the English side. It's like the "who's who" of English early 1980's football. Norway - in a rare occasion - got their few professional players released from their clubs to partake in an international.

The stage was set.

After 15 minutes England got what they came for; England one up with Bryan Robson as the executioner. Would it be still another defeat? It certainly looked that way.

35 minutes into the first half, Tom Lund tried a cross after raiding up the right side. The pass went nowhere he had intended; in the goal! Roger Albertsen was credited the goal after what appeared to be a chance toe on the ball just before it hit the far side of the net. Several years later he admitted never touching the ball, but he is still credited in all official sources.

Six minutes later Hallvar Thoresen got the ball at the penalty mark, turned about face and took a surprise shot. Goalkeeper Ray Clemence was taken completely by surprise and had no chance of a save.

Unexpectedly, Norway were up 2-1!

After 90 minutes and some nerve racking injury time, the Polish referee blew the whistle ending the game. Norway had beaten England at their own game for the first time in history.

Norway went crazy. After 80 years of international football, winning only on occasion, the apprentice had defeated his master at his own game. Radio commentator Bjørge Lillelien extatically shouted the following as the referee signalled full time, live (and in colour) on Norwegian public radio:

...and he adds time and he adds time. The English are about to lose to ... that's the whistle! That's the whistle! Norway have defeated England 2-1! We are the world's best! We are the world's best! We have defeated England 2-1! It is incredible! We have defeated England! Eng-land, home of the giants! Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Attlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! We have beaten each and everyone of you! Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? I have a message for you. I have a message for you right in the middle of your election campaign: we have sent England out of the World Cup! Maggie Thatcher! As they say in the boxing bars around Madison Square Garden in New York in your own language: (here he switches to English) Your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating! Because Maggie Thatcher, Norway have defeated England! We are the world's best!

This was recently voted number one in the history of sports commentary by The Observer; a British newspaper.

Ultimately, it was a useless win of sorts. Norway ended up last in their qualifying group which saw Hungary and England through to the World Cup. It was proven though that no team - however legendary and hyped - was unbeatable on Ullevaal Stadion.

And everybody loves an underdog who wins.


  • NRK has made a sound clip available of this famous monologue. Go to http://www.nrk.no/sport/sportsredaksjonen/4548575.html and click on the links "Lillelien på BBC" for a BBC presentation of the outburst. The other link is the unedited endgame monologue. Use the username "toalight" with password "everything". It's a WMP popup thingy by the way.
  • Thumbs up for theboy for filling me in on the English clubs as of Sep.9, 1981.
  • 1Bryan Robson signed for Manchester United FC only days after Sep.9, 1981.

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