After four years in charge of the Swedish women’s national football team, Pia Sundhage has extended her deal and will be the coach to lead the Blue and Yellows out in Holland next year.
SFA on board
Sundhage had been in heavy conversation with the Swedish Football Association following Blågult’s historic silver at Rio 2016, and now over a month after the Swedish team returned home from Brazil the new deal has been confirmed.
After a less than perfect 2015 World Cup the SFA never wavered, Karl-Erik Nilsson and Håkan Sjöstrand keen to stick by Sundhage, loyalty that paid off this Summer.
Sundhage has said she’s excited and inspired to have extended her time with the Swedish team, having already spoken of getting the taste for another tournament after the success of Rio, she had begun to eye the opportunity for Sweden to pick up their first silverware at a Euros since 2001.
Having successfully navigated the qualification stages, the only blemish on Sweden’s record a moot loss to neighbouring Denmark in their last match, Sweden with go into the tournament with high hopes of a medal as Sundhage looks to end her tenure on a high.
One of the more recognised names in the women’s game, Sundhage has at times been a divisive figure but her distinctive style consistently pays off and she’s one of the most well decorated managers in the sport.
After huge successes with the USWNT including two Olympic golds (in 2008 and 2012) sandwiched around a silver medal at the 2011 World Cup, Sundhage was awarded as FIFA Women’s coach of the year for 2012. With a hugely respectable win ratio of 85% over five years with the USA, Sundhage was in high demand after her spell in America came to an end but the Swede had her heart set on her next job being in her native Sweden. As many expected Sundhage was installed as the new Swedish coach at the end of 2012, taking the reins from moderately successful Thomas Dennerby after he tendered his resignation after a mixed Olympics in England.
Sundhage’s first taste of Swedish management at a major tournament came eight months after taking charge as Sweden hosted the 2013 European Championships, ultimately undone by Germany in Gothenburg in the semi-finals – an improvement of their quarter final exit in 2009. After a dismal performance culminating in a round of 16 exit at the hands of familiar foe Germany, the 2015 World Cup in Canada many were left questioning whether Sundhage was the right person for the job.
Sweden book their ticket to Rio
With England unable to complete at the Olympics an extra spot opened up for the women’s football tournament at Rio 2016. A mini qualifying tournament contested by the four European teams knocked out in the round of 16 in Canada took place in Holland in early March to determine who the third UEFA representative in Brazil would be. After narrow wins over Norway and Switzerland, Sweden confirmed their place at the Olympics with a nervous draw over hosts Netherlands in Rotterdam.
Not always the prettiest, Sweden were once again finding their way under Sundhage as the coach shuffled her players and opted to include more youth in the final team that flew to Brazil to represent Sweden in their sixth Olympic games. A close 1-0 over South Africa was followed by a sobering 5-1 loss to Brazil in Rio before Sweden booked their spot in the knock-outs with a draw against China.
Sweden and specifically Sundhage drew heavier and heavier fire for the nature of Sweden’s progression through the tournament, an unpleasant fallout after a shoot-out win over the US in the quarter finals made international news. Still Sundhage was unmoved as Sweden once more navigated passage into the next round after another shoot-out win this time over hosts, Brazil.
Into the final and guaranteed a medal and their best ever finish at an Olympics after taking out two tournament heavy-weights Sweden were once again pitted against Germany. Falling at the last hurdle against a superior side, the Blue and Yellows were forced to settle for silver, some left disappointed but the Swedes arguably exceeding all expectations.
With feathers still ruffled over Sundhage’s style of play debate over contract extensions began the talk of the journalists. The SFA had made their mind up and were more than happy to see Sundhage remain in charge, eyeing more silverware in Euro 2017.
The SFA is set to announce Sundhage’s successor in the Spring.