Norway's best hope in the race, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, came a disappointing 13th, leaving Switzerland's Dario Cologna to take gold, followed by Swedes Johan Olsson and Daniel Richardsson with silver and bronze.
"I have a good explanation: I skied badly," Sundby told Aftenposten after the race. "I did not deliver at all. Sport is hard and brutal and if you do not have a good day, then you are far down the list in the Olympics."
He told Nettavisen that given the fitness issues faced by Norway's cross-country star Petter Northug, Norway's prospects did not look good for the relay.
"We are far from the favorites now. We are the 'outsiders'," he said. "The Swedes have had three people winning the individual medals, and had a great championship. They are outperforming us. The way I see it they are now the big favorites."
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The defeat came as Norway's men's curling team was trounced 9-4 by its main rivals Canada, showing that it takes more than funky trousers to succeed in the sport, and a day after the country's ice-hockey team was defeated by Canada.
Norway's 13 medals puts it in the lead in terms of overall medals won. But both Germany and Switzerland have taken more golds, with seven and five respectively. Norway, Canada, The Netherlands and the US have each won four golds.