|Lars lagerbäck. Photo: www.svenskfotboll.se
After reaching five consecutive football championships 2000-2008, the world cup in South Africa next summer will be played without Sweden. The coach Lars Lagerbäck steps down after almost twelve years after tonight’s game against Albania.
After the loss against Denmark last Saturday, Sweden’s only microscopic hope is to win against Albania at the same time as Malta gets at least a draw in Portugal tonight. Of course, that will not happen. It is thereby time to look back at the twelve years with Lars Lagerbäck and speculate in who is coming next.
When Lagerbäck and Tommy Söderberg took over in late 1997, Sweden had just failed to qualify for the 1998 World cup in France. The mental hang over from the 1994 World cup bronze medal had contributed to the failure to qualify for both England 1996 and France 1998.
Lagerbäck did what every coach would have done; he left out some of the older players and gave a new younger generation with players like Fredrik Ljungberg and Olof Mellberg a chance. They took it.
Lagerbäck has often been criticized domestically for using a too defensive tactics, for unpopular choice of players and for making his team play in a boring way. I would however say that the most boring outcome for the Swedish supporters is to not qualify at all. Lagerbäck has a fantastic record: Qualification to five championships out of six. On top of that they went through the group stage to the second round in three of them. That would most likely not have been possible without the sometimes ‘boring’ tactics. Sweden is not Germany or Brazil and do not have the players to play like them. I have a feeling that the Swedish supporters will appreciate Lagerbäck and his record more in the future when five consecutive championships will seem like a utopia.
So, who will take over? The most internationally well known name is of course Sven-Göran Eriksson. The former coach of Benfica, Lazio, England, Manchester City and Mexico now works for the fourth division English side Notts county. Eriksson has however said that he will not break his contract with Notts co. Besides, both he and other big international names might be too expensive for the Swedish football federation.
The former Celtic and Barcelona player Henrik Larsson, who still plays in the Swedish league, has been mentioned. Larsson is interested in a career as a coach but needs the formal training first. He will perhaps be a name for the future.
Hasse Backe, Erik Hamrén and Jörgen Lenartsson are the three favorites to take over. They are not very well known internationally but the two former have shown on Scandinavian club level that they are capable candidates and the latter coached the Swedish u21 national team to a semi final in this summer’s European championship.
Update: Sweden did beat Albania with 4-1 but since Portugal as expected beat Malta, there will be no world cup for the Swedes.