They’ve tried so hard and gotten so far, but in the end will it even matter?
Fredrikstad – Sarpsborg 08
A playoff match like this is nerve-wrecking under the best of circumstances, but for Fredrikstad the mere possibility of being sent down to the Adeccoliga by local rivals Sarprsborg must be harrowing. Having finished runners-up in the Tippeliga last season everything has gone very pear-shaped indeed for FFK this time around, and if it hadn’t been for the late Tom Nordlie-fuelled revival they probably would have gotten relegated outright.
Last season Fredrikstad had an uncanny ability to turn tight games in their favor, but until Nordlie’s arrival their 2009-campaign was a story of the complete opposite happening, over and over again. There are plenty of quality players in their squad, Costa Rican midfielder Celso Borges for one is a player who won’t be playing in Norway for long, and with Tom Nordlie giving the team energy and a sense of urgency that was lacking earlier FFK are overwhelming favorites to get through book their place in the 2010 Tippeliga.
They’ll be forced to walk a very tight rope though, as local rivals Sarpsborg 08 will be doing absolutely everything in their power to get one over their more glamorous neighbors. At least four of Sarpsborg’s regular starters are former Fredrikstad players and defender Alexander Forsberg is even the son of one of Fredrikstad’s financial backers. This is little brother versus big brother, and even though big brother is a better team by a considerable margin a minor slip-up could be enough to doom them to Adeccoliga-ootball and eternal humiliation for their fans.
Kongsvinger – Sogndal
From 1983 to 1999 Kongsvinger payed their football at the highest level of Norweigan football, but their relegation in 99 signaled the start of a very meagre decade. But since Tom Nordlie rocked up at the club last season when they were heading for relegation to the obscure 2. division things have been looking up. He saved them from relegation and had them on course for at least a playoff-spot when Fredrikstad prized him away, and they managed to hang on to that spot in the closing stages of the season. If they do manage to beat Sogndal they’ll most likely come up against the man who dragged them out of the mud and into this playoff in the first place, which would of course add a new dimension to the whole thing.
Sogndal also have a solid Tippeliga-history, though they’ve been a bit of a bungee-team – moving between the Tippeliga and the Adeccoliga with alarming frequency. As a club they’re probably best known for their so-bad-it’s-brilliant supporter-song, “Stao no pao”, and for being the club that gave the world Jostein Flo, Tore Andre Flo, Håvard Flo and indeed Jarle Flo. These have all retired now of course, but have no fear, both Ulrik and Per Egil Flo are Sogndal-regulars so the next Flo-generation are well on their way.
With a superb home-record (13-0-2) this season you would expect Kongsvinger to book a thrilling showdown with their former manager, but Sogndal are a jammy bunch who have only lost once away from home all year so it could be very very tight. Extra time and penalties seems a very real possibility.