Football: Taylor given some cause for comfort: England's first opponents on the World Cup trail are Norway. Joe Lovejoy watched Sweden show up a few of their flaws in Oslo

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM TAYLOR'S fears that the ghosts of his Scandinavian summer might return to haunt him this autumn will have been partially allayed, but not totally banished by Norway's 2-2 draw with Sweden here in the Ullevaal Stadium last night.

The Norwegians come to Wembley on 14 October for a World Cup qualifying tie, and Taylor believes they will prove to be even stronger than the Swedish team who ended England's interest in the European Championship two months ago.

There was scant evidence to support that theory here, Norway needing a spectacular late equaliser to avoid yet another defeat at the hands of an old enemy they have not beaten these last 10 years, but how good the Norwegians may be is scarcely Taylor's prime concern. These days, more than ever, the pertinent question is: how good are England?

It was not one the manager was prepared to debate as he beat a hasty, huffy retreat from the ground, refusing to comment.

Talk of Norwegian strength sounds suspiciously like excuses to being aired in advance, but it should be borne in mind that they were good enough to beat Italy twice, at home and away, during the qualifying stages of the European Championships.

Quite how they managed that remained a mystery last night, but they were lively enough for nothing to be taken for granted at Wembley.

They began with a swarming, one-touch enterprise which brought them an 18th-minute lead, when Eric Mykland dragged the ball wide of Roger Ljung, leaving the defender on his backside before delivering an angled cross for Oyvind Leonhardsen to head in at close range.

Impressive stuff, and just the sort of start England will need to guard against. Were the Norwegians to score first in two months time, Taylor's summer of discontent could well spill over into the new season.

Another warning: Goran Sorloth is a dangerous dead-ball specialist, witness the top-notch save he brought from Thomas Ravelli with a stinging 25-yarder.

Rather more encouraging from the Anglo-Saxon viewpoint was Norway's concession of an equaliser, after 29 minutes, when their defence opened obligingly to admit Anders Limpar's through pass, enabling Martin Dahlin to shoot in left to right, from 15 yards.

Norway might have regained the lead after 48 minutes, but Jan Age Fjortoft's limp finish was a disappointment from an experienced striker with 10 goals in 34 international appearances.

The competitive nature of the fixture saw Limpar retire, injured, and Stefan Pettersson booked for a lung at Tore Pedersen.

Pettersson immediately put his aggression to more profitable use, boring in at the far post to bury Jan Eriksson's cross from deep on the right with a left-foot shot of impressive velocity.

It was a handsome goal and seemed likely to be the winner until Roger Nilsen came up with an even better one, two minutes from the end, when his 25-yard free- kick left Thomas Ravelli clawing at thin air.

Before Norway come to Wembley they play three World Cup ties in quick succession, against San Marino, at home and away, and the Netherlands. A good haul from those three, and England, post-Lineker, will have their hands full.

Graham Taylor was not the only Brit scouting in Oslo last night. Alex Ferguson was on the Scandinavian beat again, taking another look at Patrik Andersson, the Malmo centre-half he is contemplating taking to Manchester United for a fee of pounds 1m. Ron Yates, Liverpool's chief scout, was said to be checking on Kare Ingebrigtsen, the Norwegian midfielder, whose club Rosenborg are prepared to sell for pounds 400,000.

NORWAY: Grodas (Lillestrom); Lydersen (Arsenal), Berg (Lillestrom), T Pedersen (Gothenburg), Bjornebye (Rosenborg), Leonhardsen (Rosenborg), Ingebrigtsen (Rosenborg), Rekdal (Standard Liege), Mykland (Start) Jakobsen (Young Boys Berne), Sorloth (Rosenborg). Substitutes: Fjortoft (Rapid Vienna) for Sorloth, h/t; Dahlum (Rosenborg) for Berg, 78; Nilsen (Viking) for Mykland, 68; J Pedersen (Lillestrom) for T Pedersen, 68.

SWEDEN: Ravelli (Gothenburg); Nilsson (Sheffield Wednesday), J Eriksson (Kaiserslautern), Andersson (Malmo), Ljung (Admira Wacker), Thern (Napoli), Limpar (Arsenal), Rehn (Gothenburg), Ingesson (Mechelen), Dahlin (Borussia Monchengladbach), Pettersson (Ajax). Substitutes: Eklund (Osters) for Limpar, 54; Jansson (Osters) for Dahlin, 84.

Referee: K Osdergaard (Denmark).

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