While Estonia reached the UEFA EURO 2012 play-offs, they finished second from bottom of their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying section – a campaign that spelt the end of Tarmo Rüütli's six-year reign. Appointed in his place last month was Swedish coachMagnus Pehrsson, who said at the time that he had already "started dreaming about reaching UEFA EURO 2016". The road to France will start to take shape when the draw is made in Nice next month, but the 37-year-old former Djurgårdens IF boss is intent first to lay the proper foundations for success.
What you have been doing since the beginning of January when you officially took over?
Magnus Pehrsson: I have been trying to understand what has been done here in the past – I want to have a clear picture of where we are now because then we can make future plans. I have been working full days, watching previous games in the evenings. I've worked intensively and have already come to some conclusions in my head. Janno [Kivisild, assistant coach] has prepared excellent profiles of around 40 players who are in and around the squad at the moment.
Do you already know the names of all these candidates for the national team?
Pehrsson: I know most of the names, at least the surnames, but the only two players I have spoken with are [Ragnar] Klavan and [Konstantin] Vassiljev. That happened before I even signed the contract. It was a positive meeting, but a short one. Now I need to say hello to all the others and start working together.
Do you have a clear vision of what you want to change and what kind of football you want to see?
Pehrsson: During my first month here I will focus on creating the best professional environment together with my staff. By doing that there can be a winning culture – players will be very motivated and it will be very special when they come to the national team. There is always room for improvement, so my first goal is to make sure everything off the pitch is perfect.
Then the games will come and we will start working on the playing style. Of course, I have in mind the way I want to play, but you have to look at the players first. That's why, when watching past matches, I looked not at the team performance, but that of individual players. I can see already that one area we need to improve is at set pieces.
Is it harder to earn your players' respect as a younger coach?
Pehrsson: I don't think that age matters when it comes to respect. I think it's about knowledge and the person in question being trusted and competent. I believe I am and I hope that the players will feel the same.
Estonia enjoyed their best ever results in the last EURO qualifying campaign – were you surprised that?
Pehrsson: I didn't know much about Estonian football before I came here, but of course I remember that Estonia were in the play-offs two years ago. Nobody expected that at the time, but the achievement didn't affect my decision to come here. I think that other national teams respect Estonia more now and maybe it makes my work more interesting.
However, it makes it more difficult as other teams have started preparing more for their matches against Estonia. For example, Vassiljev had a very good campaign in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying, but was marked tightly in the World Cup qualifiers.
Is it a big bonus for Estonia that there will 24 teams instead of 16 at the next EURO?
Pehrsson: Of course, it gives us a better chance of getting there. We should dream about that, but the important thing is that we do a good job so we have a chance. That is the only thing I need to be concerned about. There will be always expectations and dreams, but now I need to work, not dream.
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