Why Norway didn't stop attacking in a 12-0 thrashing of Honduras in the U20 World Cup

Norway striker Erling Braut Haland scored a U20 World Cup record nine goals in his country's 12-0 win over Honduras. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
Norway striker Erling Braut Haland scored a U20 World Cup record nine goals in his country's 12-0 win over Honduras. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Norway forward Erling Braut Haland set an Under-20 World Cup record with nine goals in the country’s 12-0 win over Honduras on Thursday in Poland.

Haland, who plays club soccer for RB Salzburg, scored four times before halftime and five times in the second half as the Norwegians didn’t stop attacking against Honduras. Haland’s effort broke the previous record for goals in a game by a single player by three.

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You’re probably thinking Norway showed poor sportsmanship in running up the score against a clearly overmatched opponent. But they had to do so to move on.

Norway needed to worry about goal difference

The U20 World Cup consists of 24 teams divided among six groups and 16 of them make the knockout stages. With the top two countries from each group moving on, that leaves four third-place teams to make it through to the final rounds.

Norway, in Group C, lost its first game 3-1 to Uruguay on May 24 and lost its second game to New Zealand 2-0 on May 27. Honduras, meanwhile, lost to New Zealand 5-0 and 2-0 to Uruguay. The winner of their game Thursday, at best, would advance as the last third-place team.

Hence why Norway kept scoring. Before the game kicked off, three teams were already in third place with four points. Norway not only needed to get three points, but it needed to flip its goal difference — the first tiebreaker — to a lopsided number that no one could match and hope for the best from games on Friday.

Norway still not in the knockout round

After the win, Norway’s goal difference sits at a mighty +8 and its 13 goals over three games are the most of any third-place team. But there’s no guarantee the Norwegians will advance as the last team in the knockout round.

Argentina leads Group F with six points while Group F teams Portugal and South Korea currently sit tied with the Norwegians at 3 points. Meanwhile, Group E member Panama has one point. All of those teams play tomorrow. And a lot has to go right for Norway.

Norway only advances if Portugal and South Korea both lose and Panama loses or ties. A win for Panama vaults the Panamanians over Norway while any combination of wins or ties for Portugal and South Korea also eliminates the Norwegians. The running up of the score could very well end up for naught.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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