"Everything starts with respect," the England coach tells UEFA.com as she discuses her career, players and colleagues ahead of the Women's EURO final against Germany on Sunday.
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Sarina Wiegman is about to oversee a team in a third consecutive major tournament final. She won a home EURO with the Netherlands in 2017 before taking them to the FIFA Women's World Cup final in 2019, and now she has guided the Lionesses to only their third ever EURO showpiece, where they face Germany at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Much credit has been directed at Wiegman for her meticulous preparations, brilliant tactics, and instilling composure and a winning mentality in her squad. But how has Wiegman got here? Who were her influences? And what about her background staff and how their strengths complement hers?
UEFA.com sat down with the England coach to find out.
As a player, what sorts of coaches did you like playing for?
I liked playing for coaches that wanted to play football, that communicated and had a positive approach.
Do you think because of that experience that you've got rid of restrictions, because we see so much freedom in this England team?
Well, we're talking about tasks, we're talking about our style of play. And within our style of play, we have, of course, different positions. And within those positions, you have a task. When you do your task really well, then you become accountable, and hopefully everyone feels their freedom to play their game.
Because, in the end, in football, the ball is always open. So, you have to make your own decisions. It's such a complex game; it looks easy when it goes well, but it's actually a pretty complex game. And what we want is for players to make their own decisions within the principles we have. So, it's really nice to see the players take their responsibility and take their freedom to make their decisions.
Who are your biggest influences?
Many people in football, but also in other sports. I talk to lots of coaches, colleagues. I also talk to psychologists because I think it's also about how people behave and how they collaborate with each other. I’m just really interested in it. I really like to learn more about that every day.
What are the qualities that you look for in people – and in your players?
Everything starts with respect, I think. Football brings us together, so having qualities, being a very good footballer, [allows] them to be picked for the England team. But it starts with respecting each other and connecting with each other, and, of course, having a plan on and off the pitch, and how we come together in all those moments.
Tell me about your backroom staff. How do they complement each other and complement you?
We have a big staff here, and I think if we talk about the technical staff, we have a combination of different things. I think it fits really well. So, we have a few coaches that are really good on the pitch, really creative, and we have some people that think a little ahead, like longer term, where we want to go, and plan really well.
I think another strength is also the medical staff, the physical staff, the physical coaches, and the technical staff, but there's actually [only] one because we are one footballer and then one team. And our approach is just: "We are playing football. What do we need, and what do we need as a team, and what do individuals need?" And I think there are a lot of people in the staff who bring quality, as do the players.
They have responsibilities. The staff members have responsibilities to you, and the better we facilitate our team, the happier they are [and] the better they perform. So, little things like kits – when the kits are arranged really well, you don't have to be concerned about whatever. It makes it a lot easier. That's how we facilitate them.
I think, as a staff – I can mention so many more things about the whole staff, but it would take too much time – I think that benefits the players really well, to [help them] stay calm. It helps to make the situation stay calm and we can just focus on football.
How long do you think it's taken you to learn all of your lessons? How long has it taken you to realise what you need?
As a player, I've already had some experience, of course. Not big tournaments, only one official World Cup in '88. That's a long time ago. But I think, just over the years, as a PE teacher, as a coach, I've learned so many things, and with experience of former tournaments, you just take everything with you. I first started as an assistant, and I really learned a lot from the head coach at that moment, Roger [Reijners]. So, yes, you just take everything. I just make sure that I am switched on and remember things we did, and I write some notes on what I learned from it and take it with me.