Group E: Egil Olsen to solve John Arne Riise replacement riddle

John Arne Riise: Has quit international football

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Norway head into Friday's must-win World Cup qualifier in Albania with coach Egil Olsen still undecided over who must shoulder the burden of replacing John Arne Riise.

Riise brought an end to his 13-year, 110-cap international career in the wake of Norway's shock 1-0 defeat to Albania in their last Group E outing in March.

Replacing Norway's most capped player has been an additional headache for Olsen as he bids to dim the pain of the Albania defeat by masterminding victory in the return fixture in Tirana on Friday night.

Ruben Kristiansen, Lars-Christopher Vilsvik and Espen Ruud all appear to be in the frame to replace the Fulham defender at left-back, but whoever gets the nod Olsen concedes his team will struggle to compensate for the loss of Riise's attacking threat.

"I cannot think about Riise so much anymore, but we have to choose a new left-back," said Olsen. "This is something I've had in my head since the previous game.

"There may be a loss offensively, but defensively we have people who are at least as good as Riise."

At the mid-point in Group E, Norway find themselves lying fourth on seven points, four behind leaders Switzerland and two shy of both Albania and Iceland.

With the Swiss not in action until Saturday, Norway could conceivably find themselves second in the pool and just one point off the summit come full-time tomorrow.

Olsen hopes the lessons of defeat last time out have been learned, but insists fans cannot expect too much of a change in such a relatively short span of time.

"We meet an opponent we played against last time," he said. "The teams know each other very well, but we will probably not do that much different.

"Even before qualifying, I knew it was a possibility that we might not reach Brazil.

"But we are focusing on this match now."

Albania's surprise win in Oslo, courtesy of a Hamdi Salihi strike, was their third

from five qualifiers and clearly marked the Adriatic nation out as the pool's dark horses.

Another victory on Friday night could take them top of the pile for 24 hours at least and further fire up their hopes of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time.

Leaders Switzerland are sure to have their say in the final analysis, however, and can further impose themselves on the group with victory over second-bottom Cyprus in Geneva on Saturday evening.

Reykjavik plays host to the remaining Group E encounter on Friday, when second-placed Iceland host surprise whipping boys Slovenia, who prop up the section on three points after one win and four losses so far.

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