Norway v Hungary
Thursday November 12, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 3
A brave effort from Chelsea Ladies last night, and a heroic failure for us too. We opposed Wolfsburg at 1.454/9, and with the scores tied at 1-1 with 12 minutes left, we were looking good. Then the gut-punch arrived, as Caroline Hansen scored the winner against the run of play. It's a cruel game.
We're donning our Game of Thrones-style crow cloaks and heading north, not quite as far as The Wall, but to Norway. It's EURO 2016 playoff time, and the Norwegians are hosting Hungary in the first leg, a country they haven't lost to in ten meetings. Indeed, the last time Hungary came out on top in a competitive game against Norway was back in 1981, when I was still in nappies. I was 27 years old (not really, I was two).
Norway were in a tough group containing Italy and Croatia, and they were mighty unfortunate not to qualify automatically. In their make-or-break qualification finale away to the Azzurri, Norway were 1-0 up with 17 minutes left, but the hosts turned things around to win 2-1.
Norway were very solid at home during the qualifiers. They took ten points from a possible 15, including a fine 2-0 win over Croatia. Per-Mathias Hogmo's side conceded just three goals on home soil, and including friendlies they have now gone four matches without conceding on their own patch.
Hungary haven't qualified for the finals of a major tournament since 1986. They battled Northern Ireland and Romania for a place at next year's tournament, but collapsed as they won just one of their last four qualifiers.
I think it's no coincidence that Hungary's dip in form arrived after Pal Dardai was forced to leave his role as coach. Dardai had been combining the role with leading Hertha Berlin, but the Bundesliga side put an end to the arrangement. Dardai is a passionate leader who organises his teams superbly, and since he left, Hungary's only win has been an unconvincing 2-1 success against the Faroe Islands.
Left-back Tom Hogli is Norway's only notable absentee, while experienced Hungary centre-back Roland Juhasz is suspended. Visiting keeper Gabor Kiraly could win his 100th cap, and while I love the fact he's still rocking the tracksuit-bottoms look, the eccentric custodian is a potential weak link.
Without Dardai leading them, Hungary aren't quite the same team, and they rely too much on Balazs Dzsudzsak for creativity. I think they'll struggle against a resolute Norway side, and the hosts look attractively priced at 1.9210/11.
Back Norway to win at 1.9210/11