Born: 22.04.1924 in Sandefjord
Position: Central Defender
Appropriately nicknamed "Klippen" ("The Rock"), Thorbjørn Svenssen was a mainstay in the Norwegian central defence for more than a decade. For 57 years, Svenssen held the distinction of being Norway's most capped player of all time, before finally being passed in the standings by John Arne Riise in 2012. The Sandefjord defender made his international debut in a 1947 friendly against Poland, and would go on to represent his country more than a hundred times. Overall, Svenssen collected a total of 104 caps for Norway, and captained the side a record 93 times.
As a player, Svenssen was, as his nickname suggests, a rock-solid central defender. Tall and strong, calm under pressure and perhaps a bit dirty (at least by today's standards), he had all the qualities required by a centre-back. He was also known for his leadership and his serious approach to training, and was in every sense a great role model for the younger players. Even so, Svenssen could not carry the team on his own, and Norway were not a particularly good side in the 1950s. Part of the reason was probably the amateur rules at the time. While the other European leagues were adopting professional football, the Norwegian players were strictly part-timers.
In the match against Egypt on Christmas Eve 1948, in his 12th international, Svenssen was given the captain's armband for the first time, and he held on to it for the rest of his international career. Throughout the 1950s, he was practically ever-present in the side, but in June 1952 he was dropped from the squad for a friendly against Yugoslavia, prompting one newspaper to claim that "Svenssen has played his 31st and probably last match for Norway". Norway lost the match 4-1, and Svenssen never missed another match unless he was injured. On 25 May 1955, Svenssen became Norway's most capped player of all time when he won his 55th cap, passing his contemporary Gunnar Thoresen who held the previous mark. Nobody knew it at the time, but Svenssen was barely halfway done.
At club level, Svenssen spent his entire career at his hometown club Sandefjord, where he played from 1945 to 1966. Through most of Svenssen's career, Sandefjord was among the better teams in the league, but never quite good enough to win any major honors. Their best league performance was second place in 1956. They also reached the cup final twice (1957 and 1959), but lost on both occations, which means that Svenssen failed to win a single medal in his otherwise excellent career.
On 17 September 1961, against Denmark, Svenssen played his 100th international. At the time, he was only the second player in the history of international football to reach the century mark (England legend Billy Wright, who reached the milestone in October 1958, was the first). He played four more games for Norway before bowing out in the 2-1 win against the Netherlands in May 1962, almost 15 years after his debut. At the time of his retirement, Svenssen's 104 caps seemed like an unbeatable record (Gunnar Thoresen was a distant second on the list with 64 caps), and over the next four decades, only two players (Erik Thorstvedt and Henning Berg) ever came within touching distance of the record — but in 2012, after spending 57 years on top of Norway's all-time caps list, Svenssen was tied and later passed by John Arne Riise, who won his 105th cap to claim sole ownership of the record on 7 September 2012. Unfortunately, Svenssen was not around for the passing of the torch. He died in January 2011, aged 86, after suffering a stroke.
National Team Appearances
|22||26.11.1950||Dublin||Republic of Ireland||2-2|
|24||30.05.1951||Oslo||Republic of Ireland||2-3|
|37||24.06.1953||Oslo||Saar||2-3||World Cup Qualifier|
|39||19.08.1953||Oslo||West Germany||1-1||World Cup Qualifier|
|44||08.11.1953||Saarbrücken||Saar||0-0||World Cup Qualifier|
|45||22.11.1953||Hamburg||West Germany||1-5||World Cup Qualifier|
|53||07.11.1954||Dublin||Republic of Ireland||1-2|
|55||25.05.1955||Oslo||Republic of Ireland||1-3|
|68||22.05.1957||Oslo||Bulgaria||1-2||World Cup Qualifier|
|69||12.06.1957||Oslo||Hungary||2-1||World Cup Qualifier|
|80||15.05.1959||Oslo||Austria||0-1||European Champ. Qual.|
|83||02.07.1959||Copenhagen||Denmark||1-2||Olympic Games Qual.|
|84||07.07.1959||Reykjavik||Iceland||0-1||Olympic Games Qual.|
|85||21.08.1959||Oslo||Iceland||2-1||Olympic Games Qual.|
|86||13.09.1959||Oslo||Denmark||2-4||Olympic Games Qual.|
|87||23.09.1959||Vienna||Austria||2-5||European Champ. Qual.|
|96||01.06.1961||Oslo||Turkey||0-1||World Cup Qualifier|
|98||01.07.1961||Moscow||Soviet Union||2-5||World Cup Qualifier|
|99||23.08.1961||Oslo||Soviet Union||0-3||World Cup Qualifier|
|102||29.10.1961||Istanbul||Turkey||1-2||World Cup Qualifier|
NOTE: Matches in red are not recognized as full internationals by FIFA.
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