Sweden might have lost last night's UEFA EURO 2004™ quarter-final against the Netherlands on penalties, but outgoing coach Tommy Söderberg said the tournament would remain "the best memory" of his career.
Sweden held a subdued press conference in Faro today before heading home, but Söderberg preferred to accentuate the positives, saying: "You cannot be disappointed with a team that performs like that at a major championship. Of course I am disappointed about yesterday's result, but not by our performance here.
"Looking back over what has happened in Portugal, I have to say that this tournament will be my best and strongest memory," continued Söderberg, who is quitting as joint national coach alongside Lars Lagerbäck to take over Sweden's Under-21 team.
The 55-year-old admitted he felt "a bit sad" to be leaving the post, but added: "I have prepared for this. Leading the national team is such a great thing and I want others to experience it. It has been a great time."
Like Söderberg, Lagerbäck was still coming to terms with his side's 5-4 penalties defeat after the 0-0 draw at Faro-Loulé. He revealed that the coaches hadn't told the players who would be taking the penalties before the game as they felt they would be more relaxed that way. "We made that decision as we thought it was the best thing to do," he said. "We asked the players one by one after the 120 minutes. Some said 'no' and you have to respect that."
Olof Mellberg, who missed Sweden's sixth and final penalty, said: "I don't think anyone really wants to take a penalty at any time, and certainly not in a situation like that. I had made up my mind where to put my shot, and I hit it like I wanted, but Edwin van der Sar saved it."
The captain, who then had to watch as Arjen Robben converted the winning spot-kick, admitted it was the first penalty he had taken at senior level. "Some of the boys did not want to take a penalty so they asked me and I said 'yes'," he said. "I am not someone who takes penalties regularly but it felt OK and that is why I said 'yes'."
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