Preview: Sweden look to golden women's coach Sundhage

Tue Jul 9, 2013 10:24pm IST

Brazil's national soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (L) watches as Pia Sundhage of Sweden reacts after she is awarded as the FIFA Women Coach of the Year 2012 during the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 Gala at the Kongresshaus in Zurich January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Brazil's national soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (L) watches as Pia Sundhage of Sweden reacts after she is awarded as the FIFA Women Coach of the Year 2012 during the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 Gala at the Kongresshaus in Zurich January 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

(Reuters) - Hosts Sweden will be hoping coach Pia Sundhage has brought her Midas touch home from the U.S. when they kick off their women's European Championship campaign against Denmark in Gothenburg on Wednesday.

Governing body UEFA has called the tournament "by far the most important" of the year and for Sundhage there is no difference between male and female soccer.

"There is no such thing as men's football and women's football - there is only football," she told Reuters earlier this year.

Named FIFA's female coach of the year in January, Sundhage crowned a four-year stint as U.S. boss by winning the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics before taking charge of her native country at the end of the year.

For the Swedes it was a dream appointment because the 53-year-old is arguably the most well-known and best-loved soccer coach in the country.

After several years of meticulous off-the-field preparation by the organisers for the 12-team tournament, Sundhage's appointment was the final piece of the footballing puzzle on it and expectations are running high in the host nation.

Sundhage, who made her playing debut for Sweden as a 15-year-old in 1975, combines a combative, unsentimental approach to the game with a warm, endearing manner.

In her dealings with the fans and the media she is as likely to burst into song as she is to offer sharp insights into football and is often critical of players - something she says increases interest in the team.

"It's good that people understand we're not just a grey mob but a bunch of different players," she told the Sportbladet newspaper recently.

Germany are the title favourites and with good reason. They have won seven of the previous 10 championships with only Norway (twice) and Sweden also having claimed the crown.

Sweden's victory in 1984 was thanks in no small part to four goals in the tournament from Sundhage who also scored in the penalty shootout victory over England in the final.

Despite injury concerns over players and internal strife among her coaching team, a recent 4-1 thrashing of England ended Sundhage's preparations for the championship on a high note.

Finland and Italy join Sweden and Denmark in Group A while Germany take on Norway, Netherlands and Iceland in Group B.

France, England, Russia and Spain have been drawn together in Group C.

The top two from each section and the two best third-placed sides go through to the quarter-finals. The final will be held at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on July 28.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Australian Open

Novak Djokovic (L) of Serbia watches as Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland walks off the court after their men's singles semi-final match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Djokovic beats Wawrinka, to face Murray

Novak Djokovic once again stood tall at the Australian Open as he reached his fourth final in the past five years with another five-set victory over Stan Wawrinka, the man who dumped him out of Melbourne Park last year.  Full Article 

Reuters Showcase

GDP Growth

GDP Growth

India's economic growth revised up by almost 50 pct.  Full Article 

Stake Sale

Stake Sale

Strong demand for Coal India boosts privatisation drive.  Full Article 

SpiceJet Bailout

SpiceJet Bailout

SpiceJet board approves up to $243 mln share sale plan  Full Article 

India Art Fair

India Art Fair

Art fair turns India's capital into art hub.  Full Article 

Child Trafficking

Child Trafficking

Police find hundreds of child slaves making bangles - media   Full Article 

Movie Review

Movie Review

"Rahasya" is an ode to Agatha Christie.  Full Article 

England Beat India

England Beat India

England reach final after Taylor-made victory.  Full Article 

Change Of Heart

Change Of Heart

Justin Bieber says dropping 'arrogant' and 'conceited' attitude  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage