Huge night for Carew

John Carew will be the focal point for a nation's hopes once again when Norway prepare to take a giant leap towards UEFA EURO 2012 tonight.

The West Ham United striker kept his country's qualification dreams alive last Friday when, on as an 80th-minute substitute, he won a dramatic late penalty that led to a vital 1-0 victory at home to Iceland.

This evening sees Norway take on Denmark in Copenhagen sitting level at the top of Group H with Portugal on 13 points. Only the section winners will reach Ukraine and Poland automatically, and the Danes are not out of it either as they sit three points behind with a game in hand on their two rivals.

The Parken Stadium, scene of a fine 1-0 friendly win for the Hammers in July, promises to be a hostile one for the travelling Norwegians. Carew, though, is ready to shoulder the responsibility of helping his country towards their first major finals since EURO 2000. In fact, he is the only member of Egil Olsen's squad who still remains from that tournament.

He will have to tread carefully for the Danish duel as a yellow card would rule him out of the final qualifier against Cyprus on 11 October. When asked by Norwegian media whether he would start this evening, he would only say "We'll see, we'll see" before questions turned to his suitability for the big occasion.

"If the match is such that they push us backwards and we need the height and strength, maybe," he said. "But it is up to the coach and he usually makes the correct decision."

Carew has been on an intensive training programme since signing for West Ham United on 6 August but revealed he has stayed away from the gym. Citing no need to add extra muscle to an-already imposing 6'5 frame, he believed his new approach was helping him to recapture the speed and finesse he used to great effect in his younger years.

He may have turned 32 on Monday, but Carew is feeling good and is tired of the near-misses of previous qualifying campaigns. "We have never had a better chance to qualify than we have now. Denmark will be tough but we are not playing Italy, the Netherlands or another major side. We are no worse than them on paper."

The Danish press have been describing him as a "battering ram" but that has simply made Carew smile. "I guess when I'm in shape it means that they fear me a little." Should he do the business and add to his 23 goals on what will be his 90th appearance, Carew could yet be making more defences worried come next summer's finals.