Norway captain Brede Hangeland is reluctant to pick any favourites to advance from Group E in European Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, but is confident he and his team-mates have what it takes to make it. Egil Olsen's side open their campaign in Iceland on Friday, in a group that also features Albania, Cyprus, Slovenia and Switzerland.
The latter pair in particular will fancy their chances of making it through to the finals, but Hangeland does not want to start making predictions. However, the Fulham defender is sure that if Norway play to their potential, they are good enough to emerge from the group and compete in what would be their first major tournament for 14 years.
Asked about who the favourites are in Group E, Hangeland told Fotball.no: "Switzerland have been mentioned, but I find it difficult to answer. We might have trouble naming many of the Slovenian players, but they probably have a very good team.
It will be a very tough game, a game for men.
"All matches will be difficult. This is a very even group. We should be happy that we avoided the top nations, but there are no easy opponents in the pot. It is not impossible to qualify. If we play to our best, we are good enough. We need to focus."
Hangeland expects a testing assignment for the team in Reykjavik. He stressed: "The most important thing for us in this qualification campaign is that we have maximum winning mentality, which will be very important in the first match against Iceland. It will be a very tough game, a game for men."
After the Iceland game, Norway face Slovenia at home on Tuesday and then both Switzerland and Cyprus away in a double-header in October.
Olsen demands home success
Speaking about his hopes and expectations for his side, head coach Olsen said: "It's a tough opening for us, and six points can be good, although it depends on how we get them.
"A win against Slovenia and drawing the other three games would be a good start, but if we lose against Slovenia, that is not good. The most important thing is what we do at home. We will be in trouble if we give away too many points at the Ullevaal Stadion."
Friday's other Group E games see Slovenia host Switzerland and Albania entertain Cyprus.