- Associated Press - Monday, February 17, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Norway’s clothing has been sharper than its curling at the Sochi Olympics and the sport’s great crowd-pleasers now face a one-off match against Britain just to qualify for the semifinals.

The Norwegians have thrilled spectators with their flamboyant attire - that has included soccer socks, flat caps and knee-length knickers this tournament - but their form on the ice has been inconsistent, short of the level that saw them reach the 2010 final in Vancouver.

A 5-4 record in the round-robin dropped them into a tiebreaker on Tuesday with David Murdoch’s British rink, which has also finished qualifying nervily. There is rarely much between these two teams, who meet regularly on the world circuit, so expect another tense finish at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

“We’ve had about 200 battles against Murdoch,” Norway curler Haavard Vad Petersson said. “It’s always close.”

Despite Britain being one of curling’s hotbeds, the country’s men’s team has never won a medal in the Winter Olympics. Murdoch is trying for a third time to reach the podium after losing in a bronze-medal game in 2006 and a tiebreaker for the semifinals in 2010.

Going from tiebreaker to gold has been achieved before, though - Britain’s most famous curler, Rhona Martin (now Howie), did so in 2002 in the women’s event.

“A certain curler from Great Britain won coming from this spot before so we will see what happens,” Murdoch said. “We have a good record against these guys . we actually quite enjoy playing against them.”

With Russia out of both men’s and women’s tournaments, the Russian spectators are likely to get behind the popular Norwegians in the Ice Cube.

The winners face Sweden (8-1), the top seed, in the semifinals on Wednesday. Canada takes on China in the other last-four game.



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