Sweden could not reach the final but Marika Domanski-Lyfors can look back with pride on her time as coach.
By Kevin Ashby in Preston
The wheel has come full circle for Marika Domanski-Lyfors, the Sweden coach who will return to mastermind the development of the country's finest young talents after her tenure in charge of the seniors ended with last night's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ semi-final defeat by Norway.
The Swedes had high hopes of progressing to yet another final against Germany following their late charge to the top of Group A, only to go down to Solveig Gulbrandsen's extra-time winner in Warrington. Domanski-Lyfors revealed in April that she would return to work in player development and coach the Sweden Under-21 side after EURO, and was determined to bow out in glory following defeats by Germany in the final of this competition in 2001 and the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup.
The players also did their utmost to reward a dedicated figure who has been involved with the national team since 1992, the last nine years as head coach. Hanna Ljungberg twice scored equalising goals against Norway, and was particularly disappointed for Domanski-Lyfors after the loss. "We really wanted to win for Mackan - we'll miss her a lot" said the Umeå IK forward.
Domanski-Lyfors will now hand the reins to assistant Thomas Dennerby and can rightly look back with pride after nearly a decade of service packed with memorable moments. And her greatest? "When we arrived back after the World Cup in the United States and Kungsträdgården [a park in Stockholm] was packed with people, it was amazing," she said. "Such a moment will live with you throughout your whole life."
She continued: "I really wish I could have won a gold medal with the girls, but unfortunately that didn't happen. When we equalised I thought we were going to win but it was not to be. I told the girls their time will come. Thomas has some very good younger players who are knocking on the door and some older ones who can play for the national team for many years."
Among those youngsters are goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, combative midfield player Caroline Seger, and attacking duo Lotta Schelin and Josephine Öqvist - all of whom are under 22 and played a part in their Group A success. Domanski-Lyfors blended these talents well with the six centurions in the 20-player squad which included Kristin Bengtsson and Malin Andersson who have each now passed the 150-cap mark
That duo may feel it is time to step down, although incoming coach Dennerby is keen to keep the squad together. He told uefa.com: "A lot of them have been in the national team for years and have worked so hard to win gold that they want that so much. Maybe today or next week some might tell me that it's all over for them, but I hope they can look to [World Cup] 2007 and give it one more shot."
He said of the legacy Domanski-Lyfors will leave: "Marika has done so much for the girls. When she took over nine years ago we had problems even qualifying for European Championships - now we always reach at least the semi-finals. We're capable of being No1 in a few years time - I want to take the girls to the top."