Oslo (AFP) – Brought in to oversee Australia’s 2018 World Cup finals campaign, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk watched his new charges lose 4-1 to Norway on a freezing night in Oslo on Friday.
The man who coached the Netherlands to the 2010 finals was overseeing his first match in charge of Australia and would have been heartened when Jackson Irvine’s towering header gave his cautious side a 19th minute lead with their first serious attack.
But a hat-trick from LA Galaxy striker Ola Kamara and a fine header from Tore Reginiussen left hosts Norway wondering how they might have fared had they themselves qualified for the finals in Russia this summer.
Australia captain Mile Jedinak admitted his side had been below par.
“We conceded a few soft goals,” he told Fox Sports after the game. “It’s a shame it panned out the way it did. We know, I know myself, that we can all do better.”
Both sides played the match in black armbands in honour of youth player Adrian Lillebeck Ovlien, whose death from septic shock aged just 20 last week was described as the “saddest day in our history” by the Norwegian FA.
Van Marwijk, assisted by his son-in-law the former Bayern Munich and AC Milam enforcer Mark van Bommel, fielded a flat back three with two holding midfielders and soaked up all the early pressure without getting forward with any intent over the opening 15 minutes.
Their breakthrough came when Irvine rose highest to nod home a corner after 19 minutes to grab the lead against the run of play.
– Kamara rampage –
Norway tore back into the Socceroos and when the impressive Mohamed Elyounoussi got away from Australia defender Mark Milligan he set up Kamara’s first as he slotted in a back-post tap in to make it 1-1 on 39 minutes.
A few minutes after the break Reginiussen stole in unmarked to head Bjorn Johansen’s cross past a back-tracking Mat Ryan wearing bright pink in the Australia goal.
Just ahead of the hour things got worse for Australia as Kamara ran onto a through ball and calmly slotted past Ryan to make it 3-1.
Kamara saved his best goal for last thundering in a low shot into the bottom corner in the 92nd minute for a famous 4-1 victory.
Van Marwijk said two of the goals had come directly from defensive errors.
“That’s a shame because it has nothing to do with how you want to play,” said the new coach.
“Everybody is full of energy and wants to improve. That’s positive. But I don’t like to lose and 4-1 is too much.”
Norway missed out on the Russian World Cup after finishing fourth in their qualifying group behind Germany, Northern Ireland and the Czechs.
Australia will face France, Denmark and Peru in Group C in Russia after squeezing into the finals through the play-offs, eliminating Syria and Honduras.
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