Solskjaer earns Norway recall

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The Independent Football

The Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been recalled to the Norway squad for the friendly against Russia next week.

The 31-year-old had been out of the game for five months after a knee injury but having played eight matches for United since the beginning of March, the national coach, Aage Hareide, decided the time was right for him to return.

"We have been waiting a little with Ole Gunnar. But he played the whole last match for Manchester United, and he is ready to join us now. Even though he won't play the whole game for us, he will be a positive factor around the team," Hareide told the Norwegian newspaper VG.

Solskjaer links up with Hareide for the first time since he played under him at Molde but he will not be given back the captain's armband as the Blackburn Rovers midfielder Martin Andresen, on-loan from Stabaek, will continue in the role.

"Martin did a very good job against Serbia and Montenegro, and it is a good sign when you win the first time you are captain. I am a little superstitious and Martin is fit almost all the time," Hareide said. "He is the kind of player who sets an example on the pitch. It is not a 'must' that Ole Gunnar is the skipper."

The former Chelsea, Rangers and Sunderland striker, Tore Andre Flo, now at the Italian top-flight club Siena, has been left out of the squad.

"Siena is the most important arena for Tore Andre now. He seemed very tired in Belgrade against Serbia and Montenegro, but I don't know if it was in his legs or in his head," Hareide said.

Elsewhere, the coach of Latvia, Alexandrs Starkovs, has called up the Southampton striker Marians Pahars for next week's Euro 2004 warm-up game against Iceland on 28 April in the capital, Riga. Most of the players expected to play in Portugal will be included.

The defender Mihails Zemlinskis, a long-time regular for the national team, is expected to return from a knee injury that has kept him out of Latvia's previous four matches.

Latvia play Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic in the group stage of Euro 2004.