STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A couple of hours after watching Toulouse and Sweden striker Ola Toivonen break French hearts with a winning goal from the halfway line to go top of World Cup qualifying Group A, Jan Andersson sat on his hotel balcony overlooking Stockholm.
When he arrived in the Swedish capital to take the job, few would have predicted that he could take a side that had limped out at the group stage of Euro 2016 and turn them into a team capable of beating world-class opponents like France.
“We have many tired players (this morning) but it was a very good feeling,” Andersson told Reuters at the team hotel after the 2-1 victory.
“We feel really good today, and it was one of those nights I think we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
The 54-year-old, who steered unfancied IFK Norrkoping to a Swedish league victory before in 2015 taking over the national team, revealed that he had considered substituting a tired Toivonen before he scored his wonder goal deep into stoppage- time.
“I could have taken him off but Marcus Berg, the other striker, had some injury problems and he was also tired, that’s why I took Marcus out and not Ola. This time it was lucky that I made that choice,” he said with a chuckle.
When Sebastian Larsson forced France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into a poor clearance, the ball fell at the feet of the 30-year-old Toivonen, who whipped it from the halfway line and sent it bouncing into the French net.
“Directly, when I saw it was Ola that got the ball, my first thought was that he was going to score. He’s a very good goalscorer, good touch, good skills. For me it was exactly the right player that got the chance,” Andersson said.
Andersson and his team were delighted to extract a measure of revenge over the French after taking the lead in Paris in November before losing 2-1.
This time it was the other way round, France striker Olivier Giroud opening the scoring with a stunning strike before Jimmy Durmaz, a Toulouse team mate of Toivonen’s who spent much of the last few months on the bench at the Ligue 1 club, smashed home the equaliser.
Andersson knew it would not be enough to simply defend against France, who lost last year’s European Championship final to an extra-time goal by Portugal.
“If you only play defence against that kind of team you’re going to lose, because you must have your own game also, you must play your own attacking game when you get the chance,” he said.
“We managed to do that quite well. In the second half there were longer periods where France had the ball too much, but over the whole game we had some good qualities in our attacking.”
The win put Sweden top of Group A, level on 13 points with France but ahead on goal difference. The Swedes are no longer the group underdogs, but little has changed for Andersson.
“I don’t care about expectations,” he said. “We concentrate on the next game and we will try to win it. What other people think, what expectations other people have, I‘m not so interested in them.”
He can now look forward to a friendly against Norway in Oslo followed by a summer break and a chance to bask in the glow of positive results.
“In this job, it’s two months to the next competitive game - if you lose, it’s two long months, now it’s easier to handle the feelings and to look forward, as it always is in football,” Andersson said.
Editing by Ed Osmond