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Danny Stewart: Here’s hoping the Haaland lightning doesn’t strike twice

© Action Press/REX/Shutterstock Erling Braut Haaland celebrated a hat-trick for Dortmund against Ausburg
Erling Braut Haaland celebrated a hat-trick for Dortmund against Ausburg

When two decades have passed since a nation last made an appearance at a finals, all positives tend to get seized upon.

With almost an entire generation of football-daft fans having missed out on the chance to join in at the party, that is not surprising.

When it is confirmation of a striker’s ability to perform at the highest level, it is surely something for supporters to celebrate.

And as they look ahead to their tilt at winning a place at Euro 2020, via the backdoor route of the Nations League play-offs in March, that is exactly what they have been doing.

Yes, this is indeed an exciting time to be a fan of Norway.

Even before he made his recent £17-million switch from Red Bull Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund, there can have been few football fans who didn’t know the name Erling Braut Haaland.

The 19-year-old son of ex-Manchester City and Leeds United midfielder Alf Inge – victim of that tackle from Roy Keane – has been one of the stories of world football this season.

He hit a hat-trick on his Champions League debut and then went on become the first teenager to score in five consecutive appearances in the competition.

He hit 16 goals in 14 domestic games for Salzburg and NINE for Norway Under-20s in a World Cup tie against Honduras.

However, it was his stunning hat-trick on his Bundesliga debut, which has the Oljeberget – the Norwegian version of the Tartan Army – believing they have a star to lead them past Serbia first, then the winners of Scotland v Israel, and on to Euro 2020.

Dortmund were trailing 3-1 to Ausburg when they called the Norwegian off the substitutes’ bench. Just 23 minutes later they were 5-3 up and Haaland had claimed a hat-trick. He followed that up with two against Colgne on Friday night

It is not unknown for young players to enjoy an explosive season only to fade after opponents figure out how to blunt their talents.

At the same time, he looks a terrific find for Norway and precisely the sort of player Scotland would love to have coming through.

Haaland was not the only significant import into the Bundesliga in this window.

Israel’s big striker Moanes Dabbur completed his transfer from Sevilla to Hoffenheim, a switch that should give him game time to sharpen up for the trip to Hampden in March.

Yet, as much Dabbur presents a threat to Scotland’s Euro 2020 hopes, it is Haaland who is the extraordinary talent.

So, as cheering as it has been to see Leigh Griffiths get game-time and goals for Celtic, it is probably wise, even while snapping up the cheap concession tickets for the visit of Israel, to warn younger fans that with Scotland there tends to be a sting in the tale.

Plenty, to be fair, will have already realised it for themselves. Two years ago, Scotland’s Under-19s suffered heartbreak when crashing out of the Euro qualifiers when beaten 5-4 in a thriller.

Their opponents that day? Yep, Norway.

Erling Braut Haaland – who else – snaffled a hat-trick to help his side qualify for the 2018 Euros.

Steve Clarke and the Scotland support can only hope it is not an omen of things to come.