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from Left field:

Post-Christmas cheer in Oslo for out-of-contract players

By Philip O'Connor, Scandinavia sports correspondent

For many football fans, the post-Christmas blues will be banished by the prospect of their club buying big when the transfer window opens in January.

But the out-of-contract players taking part in the FIFPro Winter Tournament in Oslo are hoping to get their futures sorted out before the window opens again.

On a full-size indoor pitch, players affiliated to Norwegians, Swedish, Finnish and Irish unions got together to play a tournament in front of invited scouts and club representatives from across the region.

All the players are out of contract, and many are desperate for a chance to stay in the game.

Why Norway look doomed in World Cup playoff race

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Europe’s 53 national teams have been split into nine groups with the winners of each qualifying directly for South Africa. The best eight runners-up will play off among themselves over two legs next month for the remaining four slots. The runner-up with the worst record will miss out on a playoff berth entirely.

Usually, deciding the worst runners-up would be a simple case of comparing the respective team records. But there is one small snag — namely Group Nine, which has only five teams while all the others have six sides.

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