Egil Olsen, Norway’s most successful national soccer team coach, is returning after a decade-long hiatus to lead the team for three international friendlies until a permanent coach is found.
The 66-year-old Olsen, known as “Drillo” in Norway, is a hero at home for leading the national team to the 1994 and 1998 World Cups — the country’s first appearances in the tournament since 1938.
During his 1990-1998 tenure, he also turned the Nordic country into an unlikely soccer power, reaching as high as No. 2 in the FIFA rankings in the 1990s.
The Football Association of Norway announced late on Wednesday that Olsen would step in temporarily to fill the void left when Aage Hareide resigned last month after failing to win a match last season, leaving Norway at the bottom of their World Cup qualifying group.
The Norwegians have just two points and lie behind Iceland and Macedonia.
“I’m happy to be allowed to do a job for the national team and for Norwegian soccer, and I want to contribute as long as there is a need for it,” Olsen said.
Association president Sondre Kaafjord said having Olsen as temporary coach in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a good solution and “we have the option to extend [the term] if needed.”
Olsen is to have his latest debut as national team coach in a friendly against Germany on Feb. 11.
After leaving the Norwegian side in 1998, Olsen coached English club Wimbledon in 1999-2000, where he was released after eight straight losses.
The club were subsequently relegated from the Premier League.
He also spent less than six months as coach of Iraq’s national team before leaving early last year.
Under Olsen, Norway won 46 of 88 matches, the highest percentage — 52 percent — achieved by any Norway coach.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER