It does not take long inside the Ullevaal Stadion to realise how much a win against England is prized. On one corridor alone, there are four framed photographs of the 2-1 victory in 1981 that led to Bjorge Lillelien's famous commentary ("Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me?") and the only moment in sport when Lady Diana, Lord Beaverbook and Henry Cooper have all been mentioned in the space of a few seconds. Around the corner, there is a picture of another victory, this time in 1993. Graham Taylor woke the following morning to headlines of "Norse Manure."

Roy Hodgson will be hoping for something far more mundane from his first match but, by his own admission, there is a slightly dishevelled look about the England team he will put out in Oslo and their opponents cannot be underestimated just because they have not qualified for a major tournament since 2000.

Egil Olsen's side have not lost a home match for two years, with France, Portugal and the Czech Republic among the teams, to use Lillelien's terminology, to take one hell of beating. Norway finished level on points with Portugal behind Sweden in their Euro 2012 qualifying group and better goal difference would have meant Cristiano Ronaldo not reaching the tournament.

Add the problems that have surrounded Hodgson's preparations, not least the fact he has had the grand total of three working days with an experimental, patched-up team, and it would be unrealistic to rule out the possibility of him becoming only the second England manager in history to lose his first match in charge. Not that Alf Ramsey did too badly, of course, after that 5-2 defeat against France in February 1963.

These are certainly strange times when the other Euro 2012 nations are fine-tuning their arrangements while Hodgson is effectively starting from scratch. When he took Switzerland to the World Cup in 1994 it was on the back of 24 matches in charge. For England, Hodgson is 26 days into the job.

"We don't have a lot of time to fine-tune things," the manager conceded here. "We just have to be even more determined to make certain we don't waste any time. Because we don't have that time to waste."

Hodgson is not to blame for any of this and any judgment of his performance must first acknowledge the considerable disadvantages he has had to face. All the same, it is mildly alarming that he should keep referring to the Denmark side who won the 1992 tournament after the late expulsion of Yugoslavia. "They had five days' preparation before their first game and their best player didn't go because he didn't want to interrupt his holiday," he said.

A nice story, except the reason people remember that tournament of 20 years ago so clearly is because it was freakishly unusual, the exception rather than the norm and almost certainly never repeated again.

Hodgson's job is to muddle through, learning on the hoof, and it is an unorthodox position when half the team he would ideally play in England's first match of the tournament are not even in Oslo or, in the case of Glen Johnson and Daniel Welbeck, unable to train properly because of injuries.

The squad are so short of centre-backs Hodgson barely has any alternative but to start against Norway with one of his standby players, Everton's Phil Jagielka, in his back four. After that, the entire defence will be ripped up by the time we get to the real business of facing France in Donetsk in little more than two weeks' time. Or at least it will be if Johnson's infected toe has cleared up.

There can be no guarantees and Hodgson may come to regret leaving it to Stuart Pearce to inform Micah Richards he had not made the squad when the manager had contacted all the other disappointed players himself. That snub contributed to the Manchester City right-back asking not to be included on the standby list and the call-up of Martin Kelly. Peter Crouch's withdrawal from contention will also be felt if Welbeck has to be unfortunately ruled out.

First things first, however, and Hodgson seemed relaxed, enjoying the moment. "I'll certainly feel proud," he said. "I shouldn't feel surprised. I've had a lot of good offers of top jobs in my time. Nervous? Less so tomorrow or against Belgium [at Wembley next Saturday]. More curious about what I'm going to see and find out. If I should get nervous, it will be before we play France at the European Championship. For now, it's about learning."

The new manager will want to see how Steven Gerrard does as captain, playing in the central midfield position he craves. There is good sense in giving Gerrard and Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker only 45 minutes each here.

Likewise, the goalkeeper Robert Green should benefit from his first England appearance since the error against the USA that had threatened to end his international career at the last World Cup in South Africa. More than anything, though, Hodgson will be keen to see if Andy Carroll can continue where he left off with Liverpool at the end of the domestic season and if a partnership can develop with Ashley Young, of Manchester United, tucking in just behind.

In his first training session with the squad in Manchester on Thursday, Hodgson could be heard shouting at his players to stop playing short passes "if you want to use your big man up front".

It was the sort of demand that might be held against him at another point of his tenure. Hodgson, though, unashamedly favours this tactic.

"I once heard Renus Michels, at one of the [Uefa] technical study group meetings, talking about his philosophy," he said. "People were very respectful of him, regarding him as the top man, and someone said: 'When you played, Renus, you had Total Football.' He said: 'No! We always had a big striker and when we were losing, with 15 minutes to go, I'd stick him on and ask the team to kick it up to him quickly and rush after him. Why did I do that? I always wanted to win.' So if he can say that …"