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No joy for flagging Cyprus fortunes

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Cyprus could only sit back and watch as Norway took home an easy 3-1 win, with Erling Haaland’s brace breaking the world record for the most goals scored in a single season.

Haaland, 22, scored twice in the second half, pushing his goal tally for the season to 56, two more than the previous record holder, France’s Kylian Mbappe.

The win lifts the Norwegians to third in the five-team group with four points from four matches.

They are behind second-placed Georgia on goal difference, while Scotland, who beat them 2-0 on Tuesday, tops the group with 12 points from four games.

Spain is fourth, a point behind Norway, but with a game in hand.

Cyprus is bottom of the group, with no points, as it struggles in yet another international competition.

Norway broke the deadlock early on, in the 12th minute, as Alexander Sorloth’s cross from the right flew just over Haaland but dropped perfectly for Ola Solbakken to blast home his first international goal.

Haaland had the chance to break the record for most goals scored in a season when Norway were awarded a penalty in the 56th minute.

The record man followed that up with another powerful finish on the hour to take his season tally to 56 goals in all competitions.

This is the most of any player in the top five European leagues and two more than PSG superstar Mbappe.

Cyprus could only squeeze one past Norway’s keeper Orjan Nyland late in the game, as Cypriot midfielder Grigoris Kastanos scored a stoppage-time consolation for the visitors.

Kastanos’ goal did nothing more than reduce the deficit as it could not spoil the party as the Norwegians chalked up their first win in the group.

Cyprus fans watched their national team struggling in yet another tournament, with coach Temur Ketsbaia’s record also not looking good.

Ketsbaia took over in June 2022, with Cyprus pulling off just two wins in the ten games played since then.

In competitive matches, Cyprus beat Greece at home 1-0 in September last year in the UEFA Nations League, and Slovenia with the same score in March 2021, again at home, this time in the World Cup qualifiers.

The head coach’s tally reads two wins, three draws, and three losses.

The 25%-win rate is the lowest for the Georgian coach, who had been head coach at Anorthosis Famagusta for three years before taking over the national team.

From 2009-2014, Ketsbaia was the head coach for his home team, Georgia.

Meanwhile, Cyprus play Gibraltar in a two-leg playoff in March 2024 for the Nations League.

Teams finishing last in League 3 were paired, facing each other home and away.

The losers of the two playoffs will be relegated to League 4.