On the eve of his tenth campaign as Sweden boss, Calle Barrling talks cautious optimism, 2012 glory and reveals the biggest discovery he has made as a coach.
Article top media content
Sweden coach Calle Barrling begins his tenth UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship campaign on Saturday as his charges, the Group 6 hosts, begin the qualifying round against Moldova. He speaks to UEFA.com of cautious optimism, the disappointment of this summer's finals in Norway and happier memories of Turkey two years before.
UEFA.com: How do you think your current crop will fare in Group 6 against the Republic of Ireland, Montenegro and Moldova?
Calle Barrling: It's getting tougher and tougher to qualify; you can never take anything for granted. Of the group we took to Norway, ten will be involved again this time, so we've got more experience now.
That was our aim before that tournament, to bring in talented players, regardless of their age. We've also learned lessons from Norway and, though we didn't make it to the semi-finals, I feel we got our preparations right.
UEFA.com: Sweden finished behind surprise packages Ireland and eventual runners-up Spain in Group B. What was missing?
Barrling: I don't think anything really went wrong, we just weren't quite skilful enough to nick the kind of narrow wins you need to progress at a tournament. We had a good enough team to make the semi-finals and in the end it was quite close, but we didn't quite make it.
When you've won it once you know what it takes, and maybe this team were too inexperienced. We started well, beating England. Then we kept Spain, who I felt were the best team at the tournament, in check until they got a goal just before half-time – that was the turning point. It's tough at the top.
UEFA.com: Defeated in the 2009 final, you guided Sweden to a first title in 2012. Did you sense beforehand that it was a special generation?
Barrling: We had a really strong feeling we could win it, particularly once we beat [holders] Germany in the elite round. You know when you've got a winning side, and that was an extraordinary group of players. Seven of those girls [Elin Rubensson, Malin Diaz, Amanda Ilestedt, Magdalena Ericsson, Petra Andersson, Lina Hurtig and Fridolina Rolfö] have already made their senior international debuts.
That side had everything: they were physical, we got our tactics right, we had great characters, and technically we played the way you need to if you want to win something. That said, however well we played as a team, I don't think we'd have won without Elin [the 13-goal top scorer that campaign]. Just as I think it would have been difficult for the Netherlands to win this year without Vivianne Miedema.
UEFA.com: Approaching a decade in the job, how do you feel you've evolved as a coach in that time?
Barrling: International football is developing so quickly and you have to make sure you catch the same train as your fellow coaches. Football is not played the same way as it was ten years ago so you have to keep up.
You can learn and improve your leadership skills on a daily basis. If you want to work with people, you have to get to know them on and off the pitch, have a good relationship with them. I think that's the biggest discovery I've made since I started this job: I coach human beings that play football, I don't coach footballers – it's quite a difference.