Martin Sjögren pleased at start to life with Norway but looks to the future

Martin Sjögren pleased at start to life with Norway but looks to the future

Norway boss talks solid defence and plans for 2020

Sophie Lawson

With two wins from two, Norway boss Martin Sjögren couldn’t have asked for a better start to life with the Football Girls but the January training camp was always going to be about far more than getting a win or two. Having been announced as the new Norwegian manager just last month, Sjögren has taken to his new job well having already started to develop a bond with his players, the team fully behind their new coach and on board with his philosophy.

Following on from Norway’s win over England in La Manga, VAVEL spoke to the new manager about his vision for the team and how his first month in charge has gone, “The most important thing is to see that we’re doing the things we’re working on, this camp was just to start working with this idea and style of playing – to split it up into different parts, the first part in attacking and the first part in defending.

He continued, “Those were the main things we wanted to work on during this camp and I’m happy so far, I think the players have adapted to the style of play and they really want to learn. You can tell it’s a very ambitious group, a lot of young players, but I think everyone has been fantastic over the week.

With his first win in charge a 2-1 over his native Sweden, the former Linköping man admitted that it had been a little strange to be going up against his homeland but as soon as the ball started rolling it was just a game of football like any other, “I know all the players and all the coaches and staff so it was a little bit strange at first and during the national anthem but then when the game started, it’s all about winning and I really wasn’t even thinking about it, to be honest.

Big plans

With the Euros looming in July, Sjögren sees the tournament more as a stepping stone to the next, his long-term plan far greater than anything sooner, “The main goal is to qualify for the Olympics in 2020. That’s pretty far away so we have to divide that up, so to go to the Olympics first we have to go to the World Cup and we have qualification as well as the Euros this summer.

With plenty still to be done, Sjögren has already outlined what he wants to be doing each time he can call players into camp, “What we focus on now is the preparation for the Euros and we have a very clear plan on what we’re going to do during all these camps. We got off with a great start, two good performances, especially the first-halves [of both games] we struggled a little in the second-half but we showed that we have a very strong team and team-spirit. We showed great at a attitude and in the end I think we deserved the win we had more good chances than England if you look at both first and second half.

With it having been suggested in recent years that Norway’s Achilles heel is their less than water-tight defence, the two games in this year should have been enough to prove critics wrong, the team resolute in defence, working together to shield their goal. A fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by their coach, “I’ve seen the previous games we’ve played as well as the under-23s and I think the team has been very good at defending as a team but we’ve had more problems attacking as a team. So I’m really happy with the way we’ve been trying to build up out attacks at the moment and I’m not so surprised that we look good in defence because this team has been quite good at defending.

He continued, “If you look at the last two games last year against Sweden and Germany, those were two solid performances, especially in defending – so I’m not so surprised. And if you look at the way we’ve tried to attack I’m happy there too with how we’ve tried to build-up, with more of a passing game and keeping the ball, even if we’re under pressure we’ve still tried to stick to the idea and that’s where we’ll improve and develop the most.

Even contextualising who was available, the time of the year and how that correlates to who on the pitch is in season, the signs from Sjögren’s Grasshoppers are positive ones and the coach is well qualified to help the team reach their full potential, “We add some of the players who aren’t here, we have a bit more time together and I think this could be something special.