Football: Around The World: Olsen finds much to celebrate as little Valerenga overcome the odds

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The Independent Online
Norway

WHEN EGIL OLSEN took over as coach of the little Norwegian club, Valerenga, in the summer, after stepping down as 's national coach, eyebrows were raised across Scandinavia.

After turning from a second-rate outfit into a side respected across the globe, it was assumed that Olsen would step into one of European football's glamour jobs after France 98. Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday were just two of several clubs he was linked with. Two victories over Brazil, and two appearances at the World Cup finals, had established his reputation.

However, Olsen seems more than happy staying in Oslo at Valerenga. He accepted a request to serve as their caretaker coach in August, and is now considering an offer to make the position permanent.

Olsen has plenty to be proud of, after last week's events. He took his team across the continent to Istanbul to take on Turkey's Besiktas. Defending a 1-0 lead from the first leg, Valerenga soon found themselves trailing 3-0 - but recovered to draw 3-3 and reach the quarter-finals with a 4- 3 aggregate win.

"It reminds me of when beat Brazil. Then and now, we've done something almost incredible," said Olsen, who is recovering from a hip operation and waved his crutches in celebration after Valerenga's dramatic victory.

There was more good news for Valerenga yesterday, when their 19-year- old striker, John Carew, was included in 's national squad for the first time. He has been called up for a friendly in Egypt on 18 November.

United States

BRUCE ARENA had an unsuccessful debut as the US national coach last week when his side were held 0-0 by an inexperienced Australian team in San Jose, California.

Despite the lack of firepower from his side, Arena said: "It was a good first outing for our team. I'm happy to be in this position and look forward to the challenge. It was a good opportunity to give young players their first international experience."

Arena, the former Washington DC United coach, called up several little- known players for the first US international since the World Cup. The most impressive was the Chicago Fire goalkeeper, Zach Thornton, who was winning only his second cap. "He played an outstanding game," said Australia's coach, Raul Blanco.

Incidentally, the weather in San Jose was, according to the United States Soccer Federation web site, "wet and sloppy".

Cameroon

FIFA, WORLD football's ruling body, has dissolved the executive body of Cameroon football following a "series of recurrent problems".

Following a visit to the African country in September and October, Fifa has appointed eight officials to a 12-member interim executive and called on the Cameroon authorities to nominate the remaining officials.

The new governing body will serve for a maximum of nine months. It has been charged with revising the statutes of Fecafoot, the Cameroon football federation, and managing the game in the country until a replacement executive is elected. The administrators must also settle the association's debts, pay salaries due to its staff and set up fully functioning offices and equipment.

Last year, Fifa warned the Cameroonians that they could be suspended from all international competition, including the World Cup, if they did not pay overdue wages to one of their former players.

Japan

JAPAN WILL become the first nation from outside the Americas to play in the Copa America, the South American Football Confederation announced last week.

The Japanese have confirmed their participation in the biennial South American championship, scheduled for 29 June to 18 July next year in Paraguay. The Concacaf champions, Mexico, will again be present but the United States have declined an invitation.

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