Nordic nations crown their kings
While most European title races are only now beginning to take shape, the finishing line has already been crossed in several Nordic nations. The spring-to-autumn format remains the norm in these countries, and with Sweden set to follow Norway, Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands in crowning their champions, FIFA.com provides a rundown of the region’s big winners.
Norway: Rosenborg one game from history
That the Tippeligaen title has returned to Trondheim for a 22nd time will surprise no-one. Rosenborg began the season as favourites, and with Nils Arne Eggen’s return ensuring the smoothest of transitions following the departure of Erik Hamren, their coronation never looked in serious doubt. What has raised eyebrows, however, is the Troillongan’s remarkable consistency. Should they win or draw at home to Aalesunds at the weekend, Rosenborg - unbeaten in 29 matches already - will become the first Norwegian team to go through an entire national league campaign without tasting defeat. Eggen, 69, will step aside after Sunday’s match to be replaced by Jan Jonsson, but he will do so having added a 15th title and cemented his position as the most successful coach in Tippeligaen history.
Finland: HJK hold their nerve
Rosenborg weren’t the only title favourites to justify their status. In Finland, HJK Helsinki comfortably defended their title, adding yet another championship to their already record tally. KuPS Kuopio, TPS Turku and FC Honka provided the greatest challenge, but HJK were still able to cross the finishing line with two games to spare. The capital club are firmly established as the most successful team in Finnish history, with their tally of 23 titles dwarfing those of closest rivals FC Haka and HPS Helsinki, both of whom have nine.
Iceland: Breidablik break through
Familiar names might have dominated elsewhere, but in Iceland a new name had to be engraved on the trophy after Breidablik clinched their first national title. It could hardly have been any tighter, with FH Hafnarfjordur pipped only on goal difference, but the youthful Kopavogur side timed their title charge to perfection, moving top in the penultimate week after four wins in succession. With their 21-year-old striker Alfred Finnbogason emerging as the league’s outstanding player, Breidablik were able to bounce back from an unconvincing start that witnessed them take just a single point from their opening two matches. Coach Olafur Kristjansson was even able to reflect on those early setbacks in positive terms. "It's good to slip up once in a while," he said. "We did that [early on] and came back stronger."
Faroe Islands: HB edge unpredictable race
News of HB Torshavn claiming a 21st league championship might suggest that the Faroese title race followed a well-established pattern. In fact, 2010 witnessed the most dramatic and unpredictable domestic season in years, with no fewer than five clubs assuming pole position over the course of the campaign. NSI Runavik even held a seven-point lead at one stage, and it took a change in the dugout to revitalise HB, with former player Julian Hansen guiding them to five wins and a draw in their final six fixtures. That was enough to pip EB/Streymur to the title on the final weekend, reinforcing the club’s status as the most successful in their country’s history.
The next Nordic country to declare its champions will be Sweden, where a thrilling tussle has developed at Allsvenskan’s summit between two southern rivals. With just one game remaining, Malmo and Helsingborg are locked together on 64 points, although the former – who have a substantially superior goal difference – know that a win at home to Mjallby will all but guarantee only their second title in 22 years.
The Danish title race, meanwhile, still has several months to run, but already FC Copenhagen look to be disappearing over the horizon. The reigning champions are currently perched 14 points clear of their closest challengers, having won 12 and drawn two of their 14 matches thus far. Even at this stage, a third Super League title in succession looks little short of inevitable.