Sweden coach Erik Hamrén met the press the day after being eliminated from UEFA EURO 2012 and, although he noted that his side still have work to do, he assured his audience that they are very much on the right track.
Photographers swarmed around Hamrén as he took to the podium in Sweden's team hotel, and the pictures they got were of an uncharacteristically glum-looking individual. Hamrén's air of resignation was only natural, however, given the events of the previous night, when a 3-2 loss to England in Kyiv left Sweden without a point in Group D and with no chance of progress in the competition.
Progress of a different kind was more on Hamrén's mind today, though. "Apart from the first half against Ukraine, I feel we are on the right track as far as how I would like us to play football goes," he said. "But in game-deciding moments, we still have a lot to work on – both as individuals and as a team."
Much of the work to come will be on addressing defensive frailties. Sweden have conceded five goals in their two matches so far, a total that Olof Mellberg called "at least a couple of goals too many" after the game against England.
Hamrén agreed with the veteran defender, and also lamented that Sweden had not been fortunate enough to have the finer margins on their side in this tournament. "But I am not using that as an excuse," the 54-year-old added. "Good teams, really good teams, they make the margins work in their favour. And they do it through their skill. We are not there yet."
Appointed in 2009, the Blågult coach is anxious to carry on his work beyond Tuesday's meeting with France, and he revealed that he felt a lot better after the loss to England than he did in the wake of the opening 2-1 defeat by co-hosts Ukraine. "In the first few hours after the Ukraine game, I thought: 'To hell with this, I'll devote myself to something more rewarding.' I didn't feel that way last night."
Instead, Hamrén explained that he feels "full of energy" and eager to keep moulding the team into the attacking force he wants it to be. Drawing on his club experiences, he argued that building a successful side is a lengthy process. "At Aalborg, it took three and a half years until we got to where I wanted," he said, having eventually won the Danish title with the club in 2007/08. "At Rosenborg it took ten months, so it takes time."
Asked if he regretted any team choices or decisions over the past week, he replied: "You have to make decisions and live with them. I will not say that I made the wrong selection, because then I'd be singling out individual players. I take full responsibility for what we've done here."
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