Erik Hamren: I like to watch attacking football – quick and technical – which generates many scoring opportunities and goals. Of course it depends on the opponent how attacking your team can be, but I aim to coach the type of football I want to see.
Why is team building so important to you?
Sweden is a small country and we don’t have as many individually good players as the big football nations. To be able to compete and win we have to be strong as a team – the whole squad and staff, not just the players on the pitch – and try to be better than the rest in other aspects of the game.
Like diet, for example?
Well, yes. I put a lot of focus on the diet. My players must eat proper and healthy food to be able to perform at their best level. But it is not just about eating right and enough, the diet part also has a lot to do with team building. With the national team we have to sit together for at least half an hour during every meal, even at breakfast. It improves players’ focus and brings them closer.
You talk a lot about positive energy and respect…
The key to success is attitude. It is more important than talent. If you don’t commit fully, it doesn’t matter how skilful you are, you will not reach your maximum. I want my players to give everything in every training session and always show each other respect.
But you don’t treat everybody the same way…
No, I treat players according to their personality, experience and knowledge. Some things must be the same for everyone for things to work, but I try to see every individual and act after his needs. That way I get the best out of him and the team.
What is it like having Zlatan Ibrahimovic in your team?
Everyone has an opinion about Zlatan but for me he is a fantastic player who can give us that little extra bit we need to win. And he is a fantastic person to have in the group. He has meant a lot to the young players.
How do you feel about Euro 2012?
I am very much looking forward to it. The support and interest in the country is huge. I was very pleased with the qualifying campaign as a whole. Sure, we had some weaker performances but we won eight out of 10 matches and there were only a few teams with more points than us.
The 4-1 defeat by Holland early in qualifying must have been quite an eye opener to you…
Yes, we learned a lot. We had been successful in the friendlies ahead of that game but afterwards we realised we had to make some changes. Sometimes we were too naive in possession, too attacking. Our full-backs were too wide and when we lost the ball Holland punished us. Against good opponents we are going to be punished if we don’t have the right balance and discipline when we attack.
How do you rate the win in Croatia in February?
That was a great performance and the things we had worked on turned out well. When we played Denmark and England in November we were organised but lacked energy and quality on the ball. Against Croatia we showed new courage in possession and gave each other positive energy. It was great to see.
What of your opponents in Group D?
France and England are the favourites. They have so many great players who can win matches for them and they might go through without even playing well. Ukraine is also a tough opponent. Looking at the tournament history, the host nations rarely lose their first game. It will be a huge challenge for us.
How far can you go?
We all have to be in top form, as individuals and as a team, in every game. We might play three great games and still not go through. Still, I dream of us in the Final. We want a medal. Of course it will be very difficult, but look at Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004. Why shouldn’t we be able to pull off something like that?
Interview by Johanna Gara