Newcastle Jets Assistant Coach and former Caltex Socceroos marksman, Clayton Zane, says Australia can expect to come up against a tough Norwegian national team and a patriotic home crowd when they take on Lars Lagerbäck’s charges at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo next month.
Zane played in Norway for two clubs – Molde FK and Lillestrom SK – between 2000 and 2002, and during his time in Scandinavia witnessed first-hand the passion that the locals possess for their national sporting teams.
Indeed, Zane says the Socceroos should feel honoured to be playing at the historic Ullevaal Stadion – a venue the people of Norway hold dear.
“The whole nation is very patriotic and everyone loves to get around the National Team,” Zane, who was the top striker in Norway in 2001, told Socceroos.com.au. “It doesn’t matter what code or sport it is, if it’s the National Team they get behind it.”
“I think there will be a really good crowd when Australia play Norway, even though their (Norway’s) National Team hasn’t done so well of late.”
“The Ullevaal Stadion is quite an intimate Stadium and it is seen in Norway as a big privilege to play there, because it is primarily reserved for the National Team as well as big Cup Finals and Semi-Finals,” Zane explained.
A batch of Bert van Marwijk’s first selection of Caltex Socceroos players will achieve the honour of playing on the Ullevaal Stadion on March 23, like Zane did throughout his time in Norway.
Zane, who scored six times in 14 matches for the Caltex Socceroos between 1999 and 2001, recalls playing in a Norwegian Cup Semi Final for Lillestrom against Bryne at the Ullevaal, and featuring in a UEFA Cup match at the 28,000-capacity venue.
Zane’s move to Norway from Northern Spirit in the old National Soccer Legaue came about in unique circumstances.
“A tape of me playing just got thrown around over there by an agent,” he said. “Molde were in the UEFA Champions League at the time, and when I went over there to trial it was actually the same week that they were preparing to play a group game against Real Madrid.”
“So, I found myself trying to earn a contract in the same week that the squad was bracing themselves to play one of the biggest games of their lives!” he said.
And what else can the Socceroos expect when they venture to Oslo for the first match of the van Marwijk era?
“Snow,” Zane said. “We used to kick off the league in April and I always remember that it was still snowing, so no doubt that group can expect snow in March.”
“At the start of the league season the snow was always pushed to the side of the pitch and it was a race to get the fields ready. But that was some time ago and I am sure that the facilities would be a lot better.”
2018 International Friendly – Norway v Caltex Socceroos
Date: Friday, 23 March 2018 (local time)
Venue: Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway
Kick-off: 6pm (local) (4am AEDT, Saturday 24 March 2018)
Broadcast: Live in Australia on FOX SPORTS and Network Ten