By the time the summer of 2020 rolls around, the focus around Europe will undoubtedly be on the European Championship, which starts in mid-June. Among the contenders to take home the crown are the usual suspects, the likes of defending champions Portugal, World Cup winners France, a new-look Netherlands squad and promising teams such as England, Spain and Germany.
However, the focus of this piece is one of the outsiders; both in terms of qualification to the latter stages as well as the tournament itself. At this stage, Norway has not yet even qualified for the group stages of the tournament, with the country's playoff qualifier against Serbia set to be played at the end of March. Even if the Scandinavian nation does qualify, however, they will be put in a group with World Cup semi-finalists England and Croatia, which makes progression even more difficult. However, there is a good chance this plucky team could surprise more than a few people with some shock results, and, if they are lucky, with advancement to the knockout stages.
To that end, here is a list of five players who could prove to be the catalysts for Norway in the summer.
5. Kristoffer Ajer
First on the list is Celtic centre-back Kristoffer Ajer, who is likely to be the leader of the Norwegian defence, along with national team captain Omar Elabdellaoui.
Ajer, who signed for the Scottish club in 2016 from Start in his homeland, is a confident and composed defender both with the ball and without it. He possesses an exceptional passing range for someone in his position, with his raking balls over the top of opposition defences often creating chances for his forwards.
While he may not be the archetypal snarling, strong, defender, Ajer is still quite combative and aerially dominant. He uses his 6 foot 5-inch frame to good effect and is especially effective at shutting down opposition target men.
Still only 21 years of age, but already capped 14 times by Norway, Ajer's role in the side will be to marshal the defence, deal with opposition threats and perhaps snatch a goal or two from a set-piece.
4. Sander Berge
Sander Berge is a name fans of football video games such as FIFA and Football Manager will be very familiar with. Having been touted for greatness since he put himself on the map when playing for Genk in the Belgian league, Berge also made waves in the January transfer window when he was signed by Premier League high-fliers Sheffield United for £22 million.
In the national team set-up, Berge is often used as the deepest-lying midfielder, as his vision and technical prowess enable him to consistently pick out teammates with consummate ease. In addition, he reads the game exceedingly well, thus providing reliable cover to the backline, which is a trait that is sure to improve as he works with Chris Wilder in England.
Like Ajer, Berge also stands 6 ft 5 in, and like Ajer, Berge is still very young (22). He has scored once for Norway in 20 appearances so far and will be hoping that he can make a big splash come the summer.
3. Joshua King
At 28 years of age, Joshua King is no longer the exciting teenager Manchester United signed way back when, but is now entering the prime of his career and will unquestionably be one of Norway's leading players. Especially so considering his experience relative to the rest of the squad, and the time he has spent playing in a top European league.
King, who represents AFC Bournemouth in the English top-flight, is a pacey centre-forward, with a knack for drifting into space, often unnoticed by defenders. Also capable of playing on either wing, as well as just behind a more conventional striker, King's versatility makes him a must-have for Lars Lagerback's side.
While he may not be the primary goal threat, King will still have an important role to play in linking the midfield with the attack and working back rapidly when they lose possession.
Currently the top scorer for his country (among active players), King has scored 17 times in 46 games for Norway and will be desperate to add to that sooner rather than later.
When Martin Odegaard signed for Real Madrid as a 16-year old, he swiftly fell short of everyone's expectations, which were, in fairness, possibly too high for someone as young and raw as he was at the time. Fast-forward five years, however, and Odegaard is now one of the top midfielders in Europe, and fulfilling the potential that coaches and fans alike could see.
Currently, on loan at Real Sociedad from Los Blancos, Odegaard has been nothing short of sensational during his time in the Basque country. As the primary creator in the side (a role which he will be expected to fulfil for his national team as well), he has notched up 4 goals and 5 assists so far, besides showing glimpses of his supreme technical ability.
Odegaard has an eye for a killer pass, with the technical skills to execute it as well. He is also confident on the ball, often relying on his dribbling skills to get him out of tight corners or progress the ball high up the pitch. Already capped 22 times by his country, he will be one of the stars in this team as they try to upset the apple cart.
Finally, spearheading Norway's attack, not just for this summer, but potentially for years and years to come, is the name on everyone's lips when asked about the best young players in Europe: Erling Braut Haaland. The Leeds-born Norwegian has been on fire in his debut campaign, with his exceptional form for RB Salzburg in the first half of the season earning him a January move to the Bundesliga, with Borussia Dortmund.
Haaland has started like a house on fire in the black and yellow shirt, with 11 goals in his first 7 games, including a hat-trick off the bench on debut against Augsburg, and a brace against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16 first leg fixture.
He is exhilarating to watch and is a bundle of energy at 19 years old. Haaland's main strength is his exceptional movement in and around the penalty area, which makes him incredibly difficult to pick up. He is also an extremely adept one-touch finisher, something several top strikers would kill for. In addition, Haaland is physically gifted, as he possesses a unique combination of strength and searing pace, enabling him to attack defences in multiple ways.
He has represented his country only twice at the senior level but has already made headlines in a Norway shirt when he scored 9 goals in a game at the recently concluded U-20 World Cup. Rest assured that when Norway takes to the field this summer, all eyes will be on him and if he fires, we could be about to see something special.